The Gen­der And Eq­uity Per­spec­tive of the Pub­lic Fi­nance (Amend­ment) Bill, 2015

By: WIN­NIE WA­T­ERA

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[1] 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[2]. 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.

[1] Ar­ti­cle 33 of the con­sti­tu­tion of the Re­pub­lic of Uganda

[2] 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.