By Chris Obore
Stung by the report of the Committee on Statutory Agencies and State Enterprises (Cosase), former URA lawyer now at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda Mr Ali Sekatawa, hopped from one media house to another deriding Parliament.
The Cosase report has, among others, recommended that the beneficiaries of the illegal Shs6bn cash bonanza must refund it and that the IGG should investigate them further.
The House last week unanimously adopted the report of the Committee. But Mr Sekatawa, who has threatened to run to court over the matter, appeared on NTV on Thursday and Capital Gang program on Capital FM radio on Saturday, where he belittled Parliament.
One wonders whether serious lawyers lodge their court petitions through the media but it was clear that Mr Sekatawa had assigned himself as spokesman for all the beneficiaries. His aim was to try to portray parliament negatively by justifying their actions of picking taxpayers money illegally.
To Sekatawa, parliament has no moral authority and capacity to investigate him and his cohorts. One wonders what moral authority he had to pocket millions of taxpayers’ money for a job he is paid well to do while, for instance, Judges who make judgments that save the country billions never ask for handshakes.
In all his media appearances, Mr Sekatawa sounded uneducated on the functions of the Legislature.
He represents a big problem. Bureaucrats have incrementally encroached on political power resulting into the undermining of political leaders and political decisions. In other words, some top bureaucrats want to be larger than the political leaders.
I would like encourage Mr Sekatawa and his cohorts to find time and read former American President Woodrow Wilson’s seminal paper on the political –administration dichotomy entitled: The Study of Public Administration published in June 1887.
Woodrow was both a Professor of public administration and a politician and his paper has become the foundation for the study of public administration. Sekatawa must try to understand that political leadership is different from administrative leadership. The two are distinct and cannot be fused. Separation of power is beyond the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary. There is also separation of powers by the elected and appointed officials.
The appointed officials are checked by the elected leaders and it cannot be the other way round. The technical officials can offer advice to the elected leaders. Their advice is, however, not binding. It’s the political decisions that are binding.
Therefore; when a public servant like Mr Sekatawa gets to publicly undermine a legislature, he is saying that elected leaders are subordinate to the bureaucrats.
Indeed, in our context, we have increasingly witnessed institutions individualized and individuals institutionalized. Mr Sekatawa now behaves like an institutionalized individual capable of undermining constitutional institutions like parliament!
How did we come to this? Wealth is power. Most wealthy people tend to despise others who have less. Most top bureaucrats are wealthy and have invaded the political realm by being king makers; sponsoring political candidates. They also bask in their security of tenure and the wealth of information in their possession.
They believe the interviews they sit in order to qualify for their jobs is a more superior way of being in the position they are in as opposed to elected leaders who are recruited through campaigns.
Then there is this competition among peers. Some who are in academia, business and administration; see MPs as their age mates and tend to turn the competition into a negative tool for undermining each other. This is worsened by the fact that any bureaucrat can become a politician if they so wish—because it’s an open recruitment process while politicians may not easily join bureaucracy-because it’s a process under control and manipulation of bureaucrats. This makes bureaucrats see themselves as superior to politicians.
The bureaucrats have also benefitted from the lapse in the media, academia and civil society activists to paint politicians as dirty.
While the bureaucrats are in charge of money and make decisions that directly affect ordinary people; the media has put more attention to the politician than the bureaucrats. And even then, they are more preoccupied with the top politicians yet the political establishment is wide from the President up to LC level.
Because of this focus on the elected few, the nuisance value of bureaucrats has remained hidden hence the perception that they are clean and better than the elected leaders. That is how Mr Sekatawa can publicly deride a national legislature without thinking of its wider implications, moreover on a matter he has personally been found wanting.
In our country, it’s so easy to blame a politician because political nuisance (fights etc.) is easy to publicise while the bureaucrats are so discreet in their sins and fights.
There is a serious need for enhanced respect within the political establishment so that they are able to wield their authority and exercise effective control over the bureaucrats.
Dramatising happenings in Cabinet closed political meetings etc. only serves to undermine the political elite before the public thus allowing some egocentric bureaucrats to play into such to their advantage.
A politician is hired by those people on the streets and in the villages, therefore; it’s those interests that they must represent vigorously. The powers of parliament to make the report like that of Cosase were given by the people; a fact that Mr Sekatawa should be made aware of.
The writer is the director of Communication and Public Affairs of the Parliament of Uganda