Are all com­mit­tees equal?

By: MUSA MU­GOYA

Mem­bers of the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee in a com­mit­tee ses­sion. Photo Credit: par­lia­ment.go.ug

Some Com­mit­tees ap­pear to be more equal than oth­ers. In per­form­ing its var­i­ous func­tions of; en­act­ing laws; en­sur­ing ac­count­abil­ity on the side of the ex­ec­u­tive; bud­get ap­pro­pri­a­tion; scru­ti­niz­ing gov­ern­ment poli­cies; and vet­ting Pres­i­den­tial ap­pointees among oth­ers. The Par­lia­ment of the Re­pub­lic of Uganda adopted Rules of Pro­ce­dure that es­tab­lishes var­i­ous or­gans to en­able it ex­e­cute its roles ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively. These or­gans ranges from Par­lia­men­tary Com­mis­sion, Sec­toral, Se­lect Com­mit­tees to Stand­ing Com­mit­tees.

Com­mit­tees of Par­lia­ment specif­i­cally the Stand­ing Com­mit­tees to men­tion but few in­cludes the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Ac­counts, the Pub­lic Ac­counts Com­mit­tee com­monly known as PAC, Na­tional Econ­omy, Busi­ness Com­mit­tee and the Ap­point­ments Com­mit­tee- which is our mat­ters of dis­cus­sion to­day based on its im­por­tant role in per­for­mance of the leg­isla­tive arm of gov­ern­ment.

This com­mit­tee (Ap­point­ments Com­mit­tee) is es­tab­lished un­der Rule 151 of the Rules of Pro­ce­dure of Par­lia­ment of Uganda and it is chaired by the Speaker of Par­lia­ment, in his or her ab­sence by the Deputy Speaker. Its main func­tion as spelt out un­der Rule 155(1) is to ap­prove on be­half of par­lia­ment, the ap­point­ment of per­sons nom­i­nated by the Pres­i­dent un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion or any other ap­point­ment re­quired to be ap­proved by Par­lia­ment un­der any law.

A clear re­flec­tion on the above stated func­tion of this com­mit­tee points to the fact that the House (Par­lia­ment) del­e­gated its pow­ers to its com­mit­tee which it does­n’t do with other com­mit­tees. The Rules of Pro­ce­dure again make it more amus­ing un­der Rule 158: “The Chair­per­son of the Com­mit­tee shall re­port to the House any ap­point­ment ap­proved by the Com­mit­tee and the re­port shall not be sub­ject to de­bate”. What is so spe­cial with this re­port which can­not be sub­jected to de­bate? Does it im­ply that its de­ci­sion is so im­pec­ca­ble, be­yond per­fect and al­ways on spot?

While con­sid­er­ing the re­port of the Com­mit­tee on Rules, Priv­i­leges and Dis­ci­pline on the Amend­ment of the Rules of Pro­ce­dure of Par­lia­ment of Uganda on 22, Feb­ru­ary, 2012, Abdu Katuntu, Shadow At­tor­ney Gen­eral noted: “. Ar­ti­cle 113 (1) of the Con­sti­tu­tion reads: “Cab­i­net min­is­ters shall be ap­pointed by the Pres­i­dent with the ap­proval of Par­lia­ment from among Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment or per­sons qual­i­fied to be elected Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.” So, if the Con­sti­tu­tion de­mands the ap­proval to be done by Par­lia­ment, then we need to go to the Con­sti­tu­tion and de­fine Par­lia­ment. It is de­fined in the in­ter­pre­ta­tion sec­tion un­der Ar­ti­cle 257 as fol­lows: “‘Par­lia­ment’ means the Par­lia­ment of Uganda”. He added that these pow­ers of ap­proval are vested in Par­lia­ment which is clearly de­fined by the Con­sti­tu­tion there­fore the com­mit­tee has no con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to have a fi­nal ap­proval.

De­spite the fact that all Com­mit­tees of Par­lia­ment ex­e­cute their du­ties on be­half of Par­lia­ment and they are sup­posed to re­port back to the House (Par­lia­ment) for the fi­nal ap­proval of all mat­ters un­der their con­sid­er­a­tion. The rules give the com­mit­tee the pow­ers to carry out a fi­nal ap­proval of the ap­pointees. In real sense it ap­pears like the com­mit­tee usurped the pow­ers of Par­lia­ment as en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion. If the Prime Min­is­ter who also hap­pens to be the Leader of Gov­ern­ment Busi­ness is sub­jected to ap­proval of the whole House un­der Ar­ti­cle 108(A) (1) of Con­sti­tu­tion. Why not other Pres­i­den­tial ap­pointees?

It is worth not­ing that the 9th Par­lia­ment Ap­point­ments Com­mit­tee did a com­mend­able job to re­ject Pres­i­den­tial Min­is­te­r­ial Ap­pointees like Saleh Kamba, James Kakoza, Naser Se­ba­gala, Muyanja Mba­bali on grounds like lack of req­ui­site aca­d­e­mic qual­i­fi­ca­tion and their ques­tion­able moral in­tegrity. How­ever, the same com­mit­tee ap­proved Gen­eral Nyakair­ima Aronda (RIP) as Min­is­ter for In­ter­nal Af­fairs when he was still a serv­ing army of­fi­cer. This con­tra­vened Ar­ti­cle 208 (1) of the Con­sti­tu­tion which pro­vides for ‘non-par­ti­san and neu­tral­ity” of army of­fi­cers. It also dis­re­garded Sec­tion 99 of the Uganda Peo­ples De­fence Act, 2005 which bars a serv­ing army of­fi­cer from seek­ing a po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ment un­less af­ter re­tire­ment or res­ig­na­tion.

This im­plies that un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances the com­mit­tee can be eas­ily ma­nip­u­lated by the ap­point­ing au­thor­ity which nom­i­nates these ap­pointees to ap­pear be­fore it hence the need for the whole house to have the fi­nal­ity on mat­ters be­ing han­dled by the com­mit­tee though it is not a guar­an­tee that it is im­mune to ma­nip­u­la­tion.

We there­fore, im­plore the fu­ture Par­lia­ment (10th Par­lia­ment) since the cur­rent one is only re­main­ing with weeks to come to its end to amend these rules such that the Pres­i­den­tial Ap­pointees are sub­jected to scrutiny by the Ap­point­ments Com­mit­tee and there af­ter re­ports to the House for the fi­nal ap­proval.