The Gender And Equity Perspective of the Public Finance (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Government of Uganda has made significant progress in developing legal frameworks, policies and programs to protect women’s rights and advance gender equality. Uganda’s strong constitution for instance prohibits laws, customs or traditions that are against the dignity, welfare and interest of women. It protects an affirmative action policy that has enabled major progress in women’s representation in government, with women holding over a third of senior ministerial positions.
However, the recently tabled amendments to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 signed earlier this year say otherwise, specifically clause 2 (b). Of all the absurd government amendments that the recently tabled Public Finance Management Amendment Bill 2015 proposes, this one particularly irks me. Clause 2 (b) of the Bill proposes repealing section 13 of the Principal Act which is the Annual Budget; Subsection (15) (g) therein, which states that;
‘a certificate issued by the Minister responsible for Finance in consultation with the Equal Opportunities Commission; (i) certifying that the policy statement is gender and equity responsive; and (ii) specifying measures taken to equalize opportunities for men, women, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups;’
The bill which was tabled on 30th September 2015 has typically caused a lot of negative buzz on social media and other types of media. As it may seem, the government is taking a step forward and two steps back in a bid to promote gender and equity in the country with this particular amendment. I don’t know what’s worse, the amendment or the justification for the amendment. Compromising the welfare of women and other marginalized persons in terms of planning and budgeting for purposes of expedience simply means it doesn’t come high on the priority list especially when laxity on the part of the Ministry has to become an emergency for the intended beneficiaries.
The clause implies that policy statement which is the sole implementing tool at the ministry and vote level is not important so it doesn’t require a certificate on gender and equity compliance. The minister in charge of finance and planning, Honorable David Bahati in his submission to the committee on finance reiterated that the Budget framework paper and the Annual budget could still have the certificate to save time. The irony is that he forgot planning actually has to take into account all aspects inclusive but not limited to Gender and equality issues. If Uganda hopes to ever achieve all the sustainable development goals, it should seriously take into account issues of gender.
The Equal Opportunities Commission was established by an Act of Parliament to effect Article 32(3) of the constitution and is responsible for ensuring that the issues of Gender and equity issues are mainstreamed in National Planning and budgeting. In the commission’s submission on the clause, the issue of consistency rose; the Policy statements align the budgets of Ministries Departments Agencies (MDAs) and local governments with set outputs/plans. Therefore subjecting the annual Budget and the budget framework paper to gender and equity scrutiny and not the Policy statement defeats the idea of consistency.
Other issues the commission had and came to consensus with the committee on the clause include the fact that it negates the spirit of affirmative action; promotes non-compliance to gender and equity concerns during government planning, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development entities programmes and projects; and the fact that some ministerial policy statements handle more than one vote so the possibility of some of these votes not being gender and equity compliant is not far-fetched. Therefore, the report of the committee of finance did not find merit in the government amendment or the justification.
A few correspondents have a theory that government was never interested in any way in that particular clause but proposed it in the amendments to divert Members of Parliament and the general public from the actual important issues. Apparently it is said that it could be a stunt to show that it conceded on a matter in favor of Parliament. Whatever the reason is may be that saw clause 2 (b) incorporated into the amendment bill, gender, and equity issues are “actual important issues” and should be dealt with utmost caution. It’s therefore in my view that the amendment was an oversight on the part of the government as movers of the Bill.
 Article 33 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda
 The requirement of the certificate of compliance for gender and equity responsiveness for every Ministerial Policy Statement (MPS) to over 300 entities is not practical and this delays the submission of the MPS to Parliament.