The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is set to start processing the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2019, in which the Opposition seeks to cause changes in the Constitution including the structure of government.
After several months of pulling ropes between the mover, Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East, Ind), and the government, the Private Member's Bill was tabled on December 19 and was subsequently referred to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to process within 45 days after the first reading.
The committee chairperson, Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South, Ind), confirmed that the process starts today with the mover's presentation.
He said after Mr Niwagaba's presentation, the committee will immediately interact with the government side to give its take on the Bill that it had opposed from the start.
"The committee has 45 days from the day of the first reading of the Bill. Constitution Amendment Bills take precedence and we hope to meet everyone in time to present the report within the days given to us" Mr Oboth said.
He added that the committee will, after interacting with Mr Niwagaba and the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof Ephraim Kamuntu, plan regional consultations to seek the input of Ugandans.
Yesterday, Mr Niwagaba expressed optimism that the committee will support his Bill and recommend to the House to pass the amendments.
"It is positive and it gives me hope that the committee will handle the Bill within the stipulated time frame of 45 days. I am ready to make my presentation to the committee tomorrow," he said.
The Opposition in Parliament consulted on the Bill towards the end of last year with teams traversing the country. The consultations climaxed with a retreat in Entebbe where leaders of different Opposition political parties were invited for their input.
Inside the Bill
The Bill seek to, among others, cause changes in the Constitution to provide for repealing of the Office of the Prime Minister, remove the Office of the Vice President and replace it with a deputy president who will be voted together with the President, reduce the size of government to 21 Cabinet ministers and 21 State ministers, and remove the army representatives in Parliament.
Other amendments being sought are repealing the Office of the Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and their deputies, providing for public vetting of the chairperson and members of the Electoral Commission through the Judicial Service Commission, provide for conducting of Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections on the same day, and a returning to two presidential term limits.
Mr Niwagaba endured stifling two months of trying to secure a Certificate of Financial Implication (CFI) from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development because the Private Member's Bill is expected to cause a charge on the Consolidated Fund if passed by Parliament.
However, on December 3, the deputy of Speaker Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, evoked Section 76 (4) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015, to have the Bill gazetted ahead of first reading because the law provides that the CFI shall be deemed as issued if the Ministry of Finance does not give it to a Private Member within 60 days after leave is granted.