Recently the opposition chief whip, MP Cecilia Ogwal lashed out at the executive, questioning Parliament’s authority where the Executive never takes House resolutions ‘serious.’
“We have passed resolutions, recommendations and asked Government to supply a copy of all land owners in the Albert oil region in Bunyoro, but this request hasn’t been fulfilled,” said MP Ogwal
Among the resolution passed by Parliament include the recommendations of the Investigative committee report on NSSF.
Plenary carried the committee recommendations to hold the Fund’s Managing Director Richard Byarugaba and Board Chairman Ivan Kyayonka accountable for irregularities in handling the workers’ savings.
The irregularities included buying shares in power distributing company Umeme without consulting the Solicitor General.
The story on the issue ended with the high fives and stamping that happened when the House passed the resolution.
The Executive, there after went silent.
In a hybrid system of parliament that Uganda is, the case is that when Parliament passes a resolution, the Executive moves with speed to either implement or give its position on the passed resolution.
On many such resolutions, however, the Executive has been choosing the simplest, but illegal route—Silence until people forget about the matter.
Take for example the resolutions on the famous oil and gas investigations.
The MPs had among other things resolved that there should be a moratorium on executing oil contracts and transactions pending the passage of the necessary laws by Parliament.
That the ministers that were accused of taking bribes from oil companies step aside pending investigations by the appropriate agencies and the ad hoc committee that had been set up and that the government joins the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative on top of withholding the consent of the transaction between Tullow, Total and CNOOC.
What did the Executive do?
It let the politics around the subject take precedence, until the resolutions were overtaken by events.
None of the resolutions were observed as none of the implicated ministers- former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and then Internal Affairs minister Hilary Onek left office.
Some of the officials incriminated in Parliament reports were not only given medals by the executive (Mainly the president) some were transferred.
The most famous one is the report of the ad hoc committee that was set up in 2011 to investigate the electricity sector.
The report recommended among others the termination of the contracts of power generating Company Eskom and distributor Umeme, the interdiction of Ministry of Energy Permanent secretary Kabagambe Kaliisa and the interdiction of the Managing Director of Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited Erias Kiyemba.
Still the weapon of silence was applied and now no one wants to discuss the subject.
When the Public accounts committee report called for the interdiction of former Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Pius Bigiramana, over the loss of over shs50 billion, the president chose to, instead, transfer him to a different ministry, and eve praised him as the biggest fighter against corruption.
The money was meant for the redevelopment of war ravaged areas in Northern Uganda.
The last time a report of parliament has had an impact is in 2011 when then minister for Gender Syda Bbumba and then minister in charge of General duties Khiddu Makubuya resigned after the Public Accounts Committee implicated them in a shs.162b dubious compensation to Haba group of companies.
Some in government say the duo only resigned because President Museveni probably no longer wanted them in his cabinet since the same report recommended that Bank of Uganda Governor Tumusiime Mutebile be interdicted but Museveni refused.
When the leader of Gov’t business the Prime Minister Rugunda was contacted to explain why government perennially ignores Parliament resolutions, he forwarded the issue to the Government chief whip, who never answered the phone calls
However, Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi, says the executive ought to give the house feedback on all its reports and recommendations whether mandatory or not.
Regularly, he says, the executive is supposed to report to parliament what action it has taken on its recommendations.
A while back, Mr Ruhindi told the Independent News Magazine that giving feedback to Parliament is a practice that must be complied with even if there is no compulsion.
“The urge to do it is a necessity,” he said.
He added, “It is simply good practice that government reports to the house and tells them the recommendations that have been implemented, those that haven’t and why.”
Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Ssegona says that the issue of ignoring Parliament’s recommendations is grave enough to warrant a President’s impeachment in other countries but here business continues as usual.
“Those that are blaming us are right,” he said. “We have failed to put our feet on the ground. We should assert our position and know the power we have as parliament.”
Ssegona, who also doubles as the shadow minister for constitutional affairs, further argues that even when Parliament is ignored, it cannot crack the whip because most of the MPs look up to President Museveni for survival.
However, other MPs say it is unfair to blame them for the way the executive disregards other arms of government.
Opposition Chief Whip Atim Cecilia Ogwal says Parliament’s recommendations are ignored because the NRM government simply doesn’t respect the principle of separation of powers.
“The NRM regime has been trying to swallow up the powers of not only parliament but also the judiciary,” she said.
She said that the NRM caucus has frustrated the key decisions of Parliament, which it takes on behalf of the people it represents.
Government always hides under the argument that most of the recommendations are not mandatory leaving the executive at liberty to either recognise them or not.
Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah categorises them as; resolutions directed by the constitution, financial resolutions and resolutions in the wisdom of parliament.
While the resolutions directed by the constitution and the financial resolutions are mandatory, Oulanyah explains, the resolutions with in the wisdom of parliament are simply advisory and the Executive can choose to implement them or not.
On the financial resolutions, government is required to table treasury memoranda detailing what action has been taken on the recommendations of parliament arising from the Auditor General’s reports.
Although the treasury memorandum is required to be tabled every year, the last memorandum was tabled in 2011.
The memorandum is required on the recommendations of all the committees that handle the Auditor General’s reports which include the Public Accounts Committee, the Local Government Accounts Committee and the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).
The only treasury memorandum submitted by the executive on Parliament’s decision in 2011, cannot be found in the Parliament’s library. The copy is nowhere to be seen in Parliament.
When Speaker Rebecca Kadaga threatened that Parliament won’t approve the budget if the treasury memoranda aren’t tabled, Minister of finance Matia Kasaija tabled a memorandum on only the reports of the Local Government Accounts Committee.
So should Parliament resort to threats?
Ssegona says a civilised government ought to observe any recommendation that is aimed at advancing the country,” he said.
He is, however, more concerned with the resources that are wasted on doing the work that is never recognised.
“We do this work with tax payers’ money, if government doesn’t want to recognise that work, it should do away without parliament,” he said.
Parliamentary committees spend time and resources travelling in and outside the country to do their work.
Take for example.
When the committees are sitting at parliament, each MP on each committee gets shs50, 000 as sitting allowance every time a committee sits; the chairpersons get shs60, 000 while their deputies get 55,000.
When doing the work outside parliament, Parliament foots each members transport and accommodation costs plus allowances meanwhile, there is a high likelihood that whatever comes from all the work done using those resources may never be considered or implemented by government.