By Frank Kanduho
THE negative news coverage surrounding the approval by the Appointments Committee of Parliament of Nantaba’s appointment, in its sitting of Tuesday, October 23, makes a case that some people either don’t care to read before they comment or they comment for the sake of commenting.
Following the public condemnation leveled against Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanya, for his handling of the Nantaba approval, I have since interested myself with the aspects of the rules of procedure of Parliament that govern the conduct of the business of the Appointments Committee and it emerges that Oulanya’s work ethic on that day was praiseworthy.
In all the arguments and counter arguments on the Nantaba subject, it is only a very small section of MPs, who pretend to love Uganda more than all others and have on that false account monopolised the media space to unfairly bash Oulanya, when the rest of us sit and watch in our usual “I don’t care attitude”.
The world needs to be forewarned that there is a self-styled group of holier than thou schemers who, because of the unassailable positions they occupy on the political grid, feed the unsuspecting members of the public on deliberately skewed and lopsided legal arguments.
These schemers argue that the approval of Nantaba was void abnitio (from the very beginning) is so far as it was not alive to rule 160(1) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.
Their argument commences and ends with rule 160(1), as if this very rule is the store keeper of the oxygen the other rules of procedure of Parliament breathe.
Oulanya is showcased as a mole of the executive and by extension, a malicious painting is sold to the public that the executive is always afraid of having its side of the bargain tabled and approved in a sitting of Parliament presided over by the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga.
From their complaint, it emerges that for the executive to carry out ‘bad” business in Parliament, the executive is always on guard for a moment when Oulanya is presiding and that the opportunity to do ‘bad” business presented itself when Kadaga was away in Canada for the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) conference.
This argument is advanced in bad faith to the extent that all MPs are fully aware that before she set off for Canada, Kadaga had, under her hand and signature, authorised her deputy to convene the appointments committee, for purposes of, among other things, sitting in judgment on the Nantaba case.
It goes to show that the claim that, if Kadaga was in the country, she would never have presided, is a deliberate distortion.
Minus Kadaga’s written authorization to her deputy to preside, Oulanya would still emerge blameless, even if he had, on his own volition, chosen to convene the appointments committee.
It is to be appreciated that in accordance with Article 90(1), part of the business of Parliament is to consider and offer its approval to all nominations which the President makes and forwards to it.
The committee’s business endures as long as there is still a nominee.
Parliament, under rules151-154, made provision for the powers, composition, and functions of the Appointments Committee to which it delegated its role.
When rules 152(1) and 153(1) are read together, one discerns that the chair of the Appointments Committee is the Speaker and in the Speaker’s absence, the Deputy Speaker deputises for the Speaker.
It is thus bunkum and hogwash for “the concerned members” to argue that in the absence of the Speaker, Oulanya could not preside.
They also falsely allege that the approval of Nantaba was a Jacob Oulanya affair. However, rule154 makes a case on the quorum of the Appointments Committee, that is, the “quorum shall be one half of the members”.
It can’t be said that a single Jacob Oulanya can, by any mathematical miracle, constitute himself into one half of the committee.
Noteworthy is the fact that by their very rigid nature, the rules restrict the Speaker to just the chair role, under rule 152(2),”the person presiding over a meeting of the committee shall have neither an original nor a casting vote”.
One need not be trained in rocket science for one to appreciate that, premised on rule 152(2), the approval of any appointment is actually an independent decision of the committee members and it has absolutely nothing to do with who is chairing.
The “concerned members” are taking advantage of a public that has little or no interest in reading, a weakness of character that compels the public to run to the print medium as a factual knowledge centre.
If we cared to read we would certainly know that under rule 157(1), the committee can decline to approve of a nominee’s appointment in only one particular instance, that is, where it is satisfied on indelible evidence that the nominee does not have the requisite academic qualification full stop.
Beyond lack of academic qualifications, the committee has no residual power, under any law I know of, to decline to approve of a nominee’s appointment on any other ground.
What emerges as a topical issue for another day is that rule 157(1), so far as it relates to nominees who are MPs is unconstitutional because it is not in the purview of Parliament or its committees to determine the validity or otherwise of the academic qualifications of an MP, such power is exclusively vested by the Constitution, in the High Court, by way of an election petition originated within 30 days after the publication of such MP’s election results in the gazette.
However, since no one has come out to challenge it, it is still valid and enforceable by the committee against all manner of nominees, MPs or otherwise.
That Oulanya should have sought shelter under rule 160(1) in so far as it enjoins the President to appeal to the whole House, where his nominee is not approved by the committee would only be true to the extent that, pursuant to rule 157(1), Nantaba was found to lack academic qualifications, which, at this stage, was not the case.
In so far as the committee had satisfied itself that she possessed the requisite academic qualifications, it divested itself of the power to decline to approve of her appointment and as a result, recourse could not be had by the President to rule 160(1) as there was no decision, any more, to warrant an appeal to the whole house.
In view of the fact that the legislature and the executive arms of government, however separate from and independent of each other, are not adversarial to each other, it was only proper that the committee gives Nantaba audience by calling into play Rule 8, which caters for procedural aspects that are not specifically provided for by the rules.
To the extent that previously, the appointments committee was under an honest but mistaken belief that Nantaba did not possess the required academic qualifications, Oulanya and the Committee members were right, both legally and logically, to cure the mischief erstwhile created by their own honest but mistaken belief and this renders their decision faultless.
Threatening to subject the committee’s proceedings to judicial review on the basis of no known legal premise, is, unrivalled obsequious mediocrity.
Writer is a Lawyer