Worrying Trend of the Removal of Parliament Approval Powers on Major Decisions
The three arms of Government; the Executive, Legislature, and the Judiciary perform different roles although in Uganda we confuse the roles of the Executive and those of the Legislature because they work closely. The Legislative arm of Government, also known as Parliament plays an oversight role of the works of the other arms of government on behalf of all Ugandans.
Legislation is a fundamental role played by Parliament. The Ugandan Parliament has diligently performed this role save for a few bills that have over the years stalled like the Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2009 and the Retirement Benefits Sector Liberalisation Bill, that have been brought forth from the 8th Parliament and will probably go on to the 10th Parliament. This notwithstanding, Parliament has also exercised its discretion to issue checks and balances on executive’s decisions although sometimes in retrospect.
Government has in the past sought Parliament approval before the execution of certain decisions especially when it comes to taxes, spending power and borrowing on behalf of the Ugandan people, though lately not so much. The recent past has shown a disturbing trend in that regard. In more present years, Government has proposed laws and amendments intended to curtail or remove parliament approval powers. Most notably, The Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill, 2015 that removed Parliament approval before Government could borrow from the Central Bank. Although there was an outcry against this specific amendment, the Bill passed, consequently removing the requirement. The oil laws also generated a debate in 2012 and 2013, when the Minister was given overzealous powers while totally disregarding Parliaments opinion. The Public Private partnership Bill too had reservations when it came to Parliaments approval. The most recent is the Uganda Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2016 whose sole amendment is, “to repeal the words,’ with Parliament approval’.”
Judging from the aforementioned trend, the Executive arm of government has taken it upon itself to propose and ensure the passing of legislation that overrides or curtails Parliament’s oversight powers over the executive. This goes against the ideal principles of separation of powers, on the part of the government. Parliament represents the views of the people and the government should respect that.
It is also hard to defend Parliament on this because at one point the members stand opposed to a particular issue and for a good reason and before one knows it there is a complete U-turn on the matter. One can’t help but ask what happens along the way. Similarly, continuous allegations of Parliament being just a rubber stamp come to play. Both arms need to perform their distinct roles in order to limit any one branch from exercising the core functions of another so that it’s easier to provide for checks and balances and oversight roles.