Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee are divided over a proposed bill seeking to provide an instrument for addressing regional imbalances in recruitment, appointment and promotion of persons in public offices.
The proposal is under a Constitutional Amendment Bill tabled before Parliament last year by Jinja Municipality MP Paul Mwiru.
In the Bill, MP Mwiru wants an amendment of Chapter Four of the Constitution which provides for the protection and promotion of fundamental and other human rights and freedoms and an insertion of a new article to provide for affirmative action to promote equitable distribution of employment opportunities for any office in the public service based on the regions of Uganda.
Mwiru also suggests that the Equal Opportunities Commission should be required to submit annual reports to Parliament on the progress made by the State to effect the new Article.
On Tuesday, Mwiru appeared before the committee to defend the proposals which come amidst a backlash on the regional imbalance in the appointment of staff in Ministries, government departments and agencies.
Kaberamaido County MP Veronica Elagu Bichetero said that Uganda already has a law to ensure regional balance but the only problem is the practice which she says stems from a historical point of view.
“Now it is easy to point fingers at the West, but when I was growing up, there seemed to have been an imbalance or domination of a certain area or profession by a certain community but nobody complained about it. At one time in Makerere University, we had more professors coming from Teso, the elites were coming from the East, and nobody complained…they filled those positions and it was merit,” she said.
Kumi Woman MP Monica Amoding described the proposal in the Bill as a sensitive matter to discuss.
“This matter came up in the 9th Parliament and we were discussing it generally on the floor, I can never forget the emotions that were running across particularly regarding inequalities in the country. I can expect a lot of opposition, this is an important matter. There is enough evidence that can be relied on to address the matter,” said Amoding.
She added that there is need for a deliberate approach to address the issue of imbalances in the country.
Bufumbira South MP Sam Bitangaro objected to the proposed amendment saying that one does not always run to the constitution when something comes up. Jova Kamateka, the Mitooma Woman MP also wondered whether there is no another way to address the matter other than moving to amend the Constitution.
Jacob Oboth, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairperson said that they needed statistical evidence regarding the proposed amendment saying that the standard of amending the Constitution is very high.
Mwiru undertook to provide the committee with evidence and statistics regarding regional imbalances in appointments and promotions in public offices.
Mwiru’s Bill also seeks to establish an election petition tribunals to hear and determine any question of the validity of election or vacation of office of Members of Parliament, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker and other matters. The tribunal he says should be appointed by the Chief Justice from among Justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and Judges of the High Court.
It mandates the Tribunal to hear and determine whether a person has been validly elected an MP or as Speaker or Deputy Speaker and its decision shall be final and not subject to any appeal.
Mwiru suggests that the determination of petitions and declaring of findings must be not later than 45 days from the date of filing the petition.
“The Tribunal may give summary judgement pending full judgement that shall be delivered within six months from the date of delivery of the summary judgement. Each member of the Tribunal shall be required to produce an independent judgement,” further reads the Bill.
The Tribunal according to the Bill, would have powers to dismiss a petition, declare a validly elected candidate or annul the election upon which a fresh election shall be held. MP Mwiru also proposes that where an election petition has been filed, a person against whom it is filed should not be gazetted for purposes of being sworn in as a Member of Parliament until the petition is disposed of.