Niwagaba’s reforms bill faces new government hurdle

Shadow Attorney General also Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba is bracing himself for a tough fight with the government that he accuses of trying to frustrate his bill to amend the Constitution for purposes of introducing political and electoral reforms ahead of the 2021 elections.

Last month, Niwagaba was granted leave of Parliament to table the bill that among others returns the term limits debate Parliament; two years after several MPs were left nursing fractured limbs over a controversial amendment that scrapped the presidential age limits.

Under Article 93 of the Constitution, Niwagaba is required to get secure a certificate of financial implication before tabling his Bill.

As expected, the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development appears reluctant to act upon a September 18 letter from the Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige, requesting the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Keith Muhakanizi to issue the certificate of financial implication.

Instead, the Finance Minister Matia Kasaija on October 11wrote to the Attorney General William Byaruhanga, asking him to make an analysis of the financial implication the proposed Bill poses on the economy.

“Reference is made to the attached letter Ref: AK 287/479/01 dated September 18, from Clerk to Parliament, requesting for a certificate of financial implication for the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019. I note that there are a number of proposals that require your analysis and advice. These may also have financial implications on government,” Kasaija’s letter partly reads.

He further requested Byaruhanga to bring the matter before Cabinet for consideration citing the nature of the proposals.

Niwagaba however says that Kasaija’s request to Byaruhanga is irrelevant since it is only his ministry mandated to analyse financial implications of the Bill and offer guidance.

“He has referred the matter to the Attorney General who has nothing to do with that certificate of financial implication. For us we are waiting for the time to expire and we will get back to the Speaker because once time expires the law presumes I have got gotten it then we move to the next stage,” said Niwagaba.
Under Rule 117 of parliament’s Rules of Procedure, Niwagaba is supposed to pick his bill’s certificate of financial implication from Kasaija. Should Kasaija refuse to issue the certificate, parliament will proceed under Rule 117(4) to process the bill.

Niwagaba said that he is waiting for the 60 days prescribed under Rule 117(4) to elapse so that he can engage Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and have him present the Bill without any further delay.

However the state minister for Finance (General Duties) Gabriel Ajedra dismissed Niwagaba’s claims, arguing that that his Ministry is undertaking all procedures that Bills go through before issuance of the Certificate.

“When a Bill comes like that, it should be analysed in terms of what it will cost government and naturally we have to work with the Justice Ministry and the First Parliamentary Counsel to find out what will be the legal implications and what would be the cost before we issue Certificate of Financial Implications,” said Ajedra.

“Unless someone says the Bill is budget neutral then we have no problem to issue a Certificate but the fact of the matter is that there is going to be a cost somehow based on some of the information that I have,” he added.

Ajedra said that the Finance Ministry has to make sure that money is available before they issue a certificate of Financial Implications for the Bill. He said that they are still waiting for a response from the Attorney General on the matter.

Some of the key Constitutional Amendments proposed by Niwagaba include reinstating presidential term limits, removal of the Prime Minister position, removal of the representation of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) representatives from parliament, and restrict the number of Cabinet Ministers and other Ministers to 21 respectively, increasing the number of members of the Electoral Commission (EC) from 7 to 9 and others.