By Moses Walubiri and Moses Mulondo
Battle lines were on Tuesday drawn between the opposition and the ruling NRM over what the former described as government’s attempts to smuggle into the contentious Public Finance Bill clauses that hamstring parliament’s ability to have ultimate control over matters of finance, budgeting process and oversight over oil revenues.
The opposition wants the House to reject the report by the committee on Finance about the Bill contending that it’s premised on a Bill whose complexion it claims is fundamentally different from that which was gazette and tabled in parliament.
According to shadow minister of finance, Geoffrey Ekanya, minister of finance amended 51 clauses out of the 80 clauses in the Public Finance Bill after tabling it for the first reading in the House.
“The purpose of gazzeting a Bill is to allow members of the public to have an input in the law making process. The Bill that the committee has depended on to write this report is fundamentally different from the one tabled in the House,” Ekanya fired the first salvo.
Opposition Chief Whip Cecilia Ogwal and Leader of Opposition, Wafula Oguttu pocked more holes in the report, citing failure by a third of committee members to append their signatures.
However, Raphael Magyezi and Finance Committee chairperson, Robert Kasule, accused Ekanya of playing to the gallery saying he should have raised the complaints during committee hearings.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, cast her ‘vote’ for NRM, telling those opposed to the amendments made by the minister of finance to proffer amendments at committee stage.
The Public Finance Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that the ninth parliament is set to handle as it seeks to amend a number of Acts of parliament pertaining to public finance and accountability.
Among these include the Budget Act, National Audit Act and Bank of Uganda Act. However, there is apprehension among a section of MPs, especially those in opposition, that amending key Acts of parliament “by infection” might spawn contradictions in laws pertaining to public finance and accountability in the country.
Former Leader of Opposition, Nandala Mafabi and Alice Alaso have urged the impending debate about the Bill to be handled with care to avoid the specter of a law that will emasculate parliament’s role in the budget process.
In a related development, members of parliament have called for an urgent review of the demand for a Certificate of Financial Implication (CFI) as prerequisite for any Bill in parliament, saying it’s hamstringing their legislative role.
The Budget Act provides for a CFI as a mandatory requirement for all private members’ Bills as a guarantee from the Minister of Finance that the mooted piece of legislation will have no impact on the consolidated fund.
MPs Gerald Karuhanga, Paul Mwiru and Alaso feel government bureaucrats are abusing this provision, thus hampering MPs’ legislative role.
The trio wants amendments in the Budget Act to provide for a timeline within which Minister of Finance should issue a CFI or proffer a reason for not doing so.
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NRM, opposition spar over Public Finance Bill