The Ex­ec­u­tive should take Par­lia­men­tary res­o­lu­tions more se­ri­ously

By: WIN­NIE WA­T­ERA

The Deputy Speaker Ja­cob Oulanyah, has on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions said that res­o­lu­tions or rec­om­men­da­tions in the wis­dom of Par­lia­ment are merely ad­vi­sory, noth­ing more and there­fore, the ex­ec­u­tive can use its dis­cre­tion to ei­ther adopt or dis­miss these res­o­lu­tions. He re­it­er­ated the fact that the only res­o­lu­tions bind­ing are those di­rected by the con­sti­tu­tion and fi­nan­cial res­o­lu­tions.

How­ever, it’s in the best in­ter­ests of Ugan­dans that res­o­lu­tions passed by Par­lia­ment are taken more se­ri­ously by the ex­ec­u­tive. Par­lia­ment deals with dif­fer­ent kinds of busi­ness stip­u­lated in its rules of pro­ce­dure, rang­ing from pe­ti­tions, mo­tions, laws, loans to men­tion a few, most, of course, which legally re­sult in non-bind­ing res­o­lu­tions.

Most of the busi­ness that Par­lia­ment deals with re­quires, that at the end of it all, a re­port with rec­om­men­da­tions or res­o­lu­tions on what­ever busi­ness trans­acted is gen­er­ated. Look­ing at Par­lia­men­tary processes from a mon­e­tary per­spec­tive is one way to look at how im­por­tant these res­o­lu­tions or rec­om­men­da­tions are and to an ex­tent should be bind­ing on the gov­ern­ment. Each sit­ting al­ways has an al­lowance tagged to it, this cou­pled with times the com­mit­tee sits, the num­ber of MPs at­tend­ing, the num­ber of times the com­mit­tee sits and the num­ber of com­mit­tees in Par­lia­ment means that a lot of money is spent. This, cou­pled with other im­por­tant pa­ra­me­ters like time and com­mit­ment cul­mi­nates into a far greater prob­lem. Con­trary to this, le­gal en­thu­si­asts could ar­gue that the cost of Par­lia­men­tary processes is not suf­fi­cient ground for the­ses res­o­lu­tions to be bind­ing, how­ever, from a moral per­spec­tive, we need to em­pathize with the tax payer whose hard earned money does not yield the nec­es­sary re­sults.

A sce­nario where gov­ern­ment could have saved money if they based their de­ci­sion on a rec­om­men­da­tion from Par­lia­ment is the most re­cent is the Kam­pala High court rul­ing on 11th Jan­u­ary, 2016, where the court or­dered gov­ern­ment to pay Ugx 29.1 bil­lion to for­mer em­ploy­ees of the de­funct Uganda Cof­fee Mar­ket­ing Board [CMB] who were re­trenched in 1992 with­out com­pen­sa­tion. Be­fore this, a pe­ti­tion was tabled in Par­lia­ment by Hon­or­able Kris­pus Ayena back in 2012 on be­half of the pe­ti­tion­ers [1]. As per the rules, the pe­ti­tion was sent to the Par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee on le­gal and Par­lia­men­tary af­fairs which un­der the 45-day rule pro­duced a re­port adopted in 2014. The rul­ing by the high court was sim­i­lar to the rec­om­men­da­tions of Par­lia­ment.

Var­i­ous costs could have been avoided in time, court fees, and lawyer fees among oth­ers. It would not be so bad on the side of Gov­ern­ment be­cause these costs would con­se­quently re­duce the ex­pen­di­ture of the Min­istry of Jus­tice and con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs which is al­ready grap­pling with its own bud­get al­lo­ca­tion vis-a-vis its planned ex­pen­di­ture. For the fi­nan­cial year 2016/​17 the Min­istry of Jus­tice and Con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs will re­ceive UGX 67.046B and yet the out­stand­ing ar­rears in court awards cur­rently stand at UGX 479.3B. This notwith­stand­ing the con­tin­gent li­a­bil­i­ties for court awards and com­pen­sa­tions as at June 30th, 2015 stood at UGX 4.3 tril­lion. There­fore, it is im­per­a­tive that gov­ern­ment de­vises ef­fec­tive means to re­duce ex­pen­di­ture at what­ever cost.

We should, how­ever, be very care­ful not to dis­miss the pos­si­bil­ity of some de­ci­sions of Par­lia­ment be­ing po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Due dili­gence must be care­fully ex­erted by the ex­ec­u­tive on de­ci­sions to de­crease the risk of get­ting into trou­ble on the ba­sis of Par­lia­ment rec­om­men­da­tions as was of the for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Amama Mbabazi, dur­ing the al­leged ‘oil bribery’ scan­dals that saw a UGX 13 bil­lion com­pen­sa­tion be­ing awarded to Mr. Sev­erino Twinobus­ingye [2]. There­fore as one of the tenets of good gov­er­nance, Par­lia­ment must also play its as­signed role in the Con­sti­tu­tion dili­gently and with ut­most pre­ci­sion.

Like Al­bert Sam-Tsokwa said de­scrib­ing the res­o­lu­tions of the par­lia­ment as merely ad­vi­sory showed that there was “bank­ruptcy” in the un­der­stand­ing of the role of the leg­is­la­ture in any democ­racy. It would be bet­ter if the ex­ec­u­tive took the rec­om­men­da­tions and res­o­lu­tions of Par­lia­ment more se­ri­ously than they do now. But if this is not put on law, then the ex­ec­u­tive is free to ex­er­cise its dis­cre­tion which  in turn is un­fair to Par­lia­ment and the peo­ple they rep­re­sent. Con­sid­er­ing that Par­lia­ment among other things is sup­posed to keep checks and bal­ances on gov­ern­ment and more of­ten than not its rec­om­men­da­tions are in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

[1] Pe­ti­tions tracker at Par­lia­ment Watch Uganda web­site:  http://​par­lia­ment­watch.ug/​mo­tion/​for­mer-work­ers-of-cof­fee-mar­ket­ing-board/

[2] Daily Mon­i­tor – http://​www.mon­i­tor.co.ug/​Spe­cial­Re­ports/​Shs13b-given-to-me-for-Mbabazi-case-was/-/​688342/​1716322/-/​m17poc/-/​in­dex.html