The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: We Can't Progress Without Respect for Institutions

The ministry of Finance has made great news of its release of a tranche of money to districts for the current second quarter cycle of the year's budget. In the flourish, billions of shillings are announced to have been sent to each of the districts, amounting to Shs 2 trillion in the government's projected discharge of its responsibility to the people.

The onus is then placed on the public in general and MPs in particular to monitor the funds to ensure that they are spent for the intended purpose. Certainly, every Ugandan ought to take political interest in how the affairs of the country are being handled at all levels.

This includes debating on the various social interests, to forming judgment on public concerns and prioritizing the resource allocation relevant for impact of the propounded desires.

However, the managerial and administrative duty of the government lies squarely with itself. It possesses vast structural echelons of officials to supervise and direct the fulfillment of its operations.

Constitutionally, MPs belong to the legislative arm of the state. They also act as the political watchdog of the people, expected to represent the general population by holding government to be responsive to their needs.

Consequently, there is a recognized distinction and division of labour between the Executive and Parliament, even if they are both founded on the same lineage. The eyes, ears, mouth and the alimentary canal, etc, are all interconnected organs in a human body serving the existence of the same person.

But each of them performs specifically separate functions differently. No MP has as yet voiced any nervousness towards the assignment to monitor the districts or any of the departments of the government. They all seem unreservedly elated to add the new folio of slots to their honourable titles.

The haze of misconceived work of the various organs has already led to tragic and comical mix-ups. Much of the time of our parliamentarians has been squandered on lengthy compilation of presupposed meticulous evidence of misconduct of officials which has been routinely disowned by the Executive.

Recently, MPs have been loudly protesting the powers bestowed on the minister in the bill for managing the oil sector. It soon transpired that the disarming charms of President Museveni and the fickle convictions of the MPs dissuaded them from their professed stand.

Apparently, the MPs who were opposed to the powers of the minister were chided for conceding political leadership of the oil industry to the technocrats. Our said MPs could not remember that it was the same government which had first mooted the policy of divesting and privatising the economy to the whims of the market forces rather than vesting authority in political decision-makers.

It was also reported that the MPs received assurances from President Museveni that the exercise of power by the minister would be done strictly under his concurrence. The legislators then abandoned their objection to the minister's power on the premises of their trust and the esteem for President Museveni.

In effect, this is equivalent to enacting a law for the country out of fancies and romance rather than hard-headed necessity for regulating society's life. Yet there is no enacted law that limits the presidency of Uganda to President Museveni alone.

Even a Kazinda, or any of the present proliferating billionaires, can, with their immense wealth and influence, somersault to the presidency of Uganda. In such a situation, the exercise of power would be under different assurance in which the current Parliament would not be in place to be recalled to amend the law.

However, this attitude is not isolated to NRM politicians as such, but permeates in the whole polity of the assumed political divide. Dr Kizza Besigye of the FDC was, two weeks ago, asked why he had relinquished the leadership of his party prematurely.

He replied that he wanted to be free of the reins of its leadership so that he would engage his energy in getting President Yoweri Museveni out of power. Clearly, this was an assertion that heading an organization handicaps desired political struggles.

Implicit in this is the declaration that political aims are achievable only outside the bounds of organization and discipline, expressly on ad hoc basis. Only with the shaping and organizing of society in its institutions can there be homogeneity to build social bonds and progress of our country.

The author is a member of NEC (NRM) representing historicals.

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