What prompted Parliament to withdraw 36 Bills on Agency Mergers?

by Mmeeme Leticia Luweze
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On Tuesday, February 27, 2024, the Parliament of Uganda withdrew 36 out of 39 Bills intended to effect the rationalization and merger of agencies. This decision came after opposition from a section of legislators who cited the absence of proper certificates of financial implication.

The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, highlighted that discrepancies in the certificates were discovered after Bills tabled on February 20 were sent to committees. She informed the House that only three Bills had been fully processed with accompanying certificates. These Bills are The Uganda National Information Technology Authority (Amendment) Bill 2024, the National Record and Archives (Amendment) Bill 2024, and the Karamoja Development Agency (Repeal) Bill 2024.

Rule 76, subsection (1) of the Uganda Public Finance Management Act 2015 mandates that every Bill introduced in Parliament must be accompanied by a certificate of financial implications issued by the Minister. Furthermore, under subsection (2), the certificate of financial implications issued under subsection (1) should indicate the estimates of revenue and expenditure for not less than two years after the coming into effect of the Bill when passed.

Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda described the tabling of the Bills as a “very serious matter” and challenged the Attorney General to inform Parliament that a Bill brought in that fashion would not have to be withdrawn.

In response, Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka said, “The bills with defective certificates of financial implication are withdrawn and will be resubmitted.”

Parliament tabled several Bills on February 20, intended to be passed to facilitate the rationalization already approved by the executive. However, certain Bills lacked the required financial certificates mandated by the Uganda Public Finance Management Act 2015.

The withdrawn Bills include the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Education Sector) (Amendment) Bill 2024, the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Trade Sector) Amendment Bill 2024, the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Works and Transport Sector) Amendment Bill 2024, the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Social Development Sector) Amendment Bill 2024, the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Tourism Sector) Amendment Bill 2024, and the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Internal Affairs Sector) Amendment Bill 2024.

Additionally, there are the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Finance Sector) Amendment Bill 2024, the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Water and Environment Sector) Amendment Bill 2024, and the Rationalization of Government Agencies (Agriculture Sector) Amendment Bill 2024. 

These Bills will require re-tabling, although the government has not committed to a specific timeframe for this action. The planned full-day session was cut short after the passage of just one Bill.

Additionally, it was revealed that the Ministry of Finance has not allocated funds for the merging or rationalization of agencies in the upcoming financial year. Ms. Among urged committees to provide a turnaround time of three days and suspended all other business.

The Rationalization of Government Agencies was initially proposed in 2018. According to plans detailed in 2021, the government aimed to maintain 80 of its 157 agencies, transfer the responsibilities of 33 to line ministries, and merge 35 into 19 entities.

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