July 17, 2013

Parliament Powerless Over Bigirimana Removal

According to a letter signed by the Acting Solicitor General Christopher Gasharabaki to the Ministry of Finance, Parliament may recommend the rejection of accounting officers but that the recommendation only remains advisory to the appointing authority.

A month ago, Members of Parliament during the passing of supplementary budget schedule 2 demanded that three permanent secretaries Pius Bigirimana previously under Prime Minister’s office, Kagoda Stephen PS Internal Affairs Ministry and PS Asuman Lukwago of Public service be replaced by new accounting officers.

Former PS in the Office of the Prime Minister Pius Bigirimana
Former PS in the Office of the Prime Minister Pius Bigirimana

The MPs argued that the three’s reputation was questioned by the public court in regards with handling of public funds.

The Acting Solicitor General in the letter noted that the constitutional court ruled on the limitation of parliament’s power in a recent case that parliament is not vested with powers under the constitution to order the removal of certain persons from office whose vacation of office is provided for under the constitution.

He noted that the power to appoint or remove a PS is provided for by an Act of Parliament and it is on that basis that they can be stripped of their accounting powers.

He further noted that section 24 of the Interpretation Act Part 3 stipulates that he who has the power to appoint has the power to remove.

In the letter the Solicitor General said that they have studied the relevant laws and the Hansard and noted that accounting officers are designated by the Secretary to the Treasury with prior approval of the Ministry of Finance in accordance with section 8 part 1 of the Public Finance and Accountability Act.

The Solicitor General therefore recommended to the Ministry of Finance that taking cognizance of the role of Parliament and the recommendation made by them cannot remove the accounting powers without due processes regarding the allegations.

Dr Asuman Lukwago, the former Health  Ministry's Permanent Secretary
Dr Asuman Lukwago, the former Health Ministry’s Permanent Secretary

This yielded a heated debate from the MPs who refused to take the advice and insisting that the Minister of Finance does what exactly Parliament directed.

Shadow Attorney General and Bugwere MP Abdu Katuntu said that the point made by parliament was that the three officers had fallen below the standards required of them by parliament to whom they are supposed to be accountable.

He said that for parliament to sit down and watch the three continue to work will not have performed its functions.

Katuntu then said that the Executive can keep their officers but the authority to disburse funds to be accounted for lies in the power of Parliament.

MP Mariam Nalubebega argued that the Finance ministry and government are deliberately staying officers who are corrupt which is not right.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told the Minister of Finance to do exactly what parliament directed to name new officers to replace the three and if not the ministry should do what it feels is right to their conscious.

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