East African regional legislators have given themselves powers to determine their pay, amidst objections from the council of ministers.
On Wednesday in Kampala, members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion that gives them powers to determine their own benefits, including salaries and other emoluments.
Uganda’s Susan Nakawuki moved the motion to operationalise the financial and administrative autonomy granted to the assembly two years ago by the East African Community (EAC) council of ministers.
Nakawuki’s motion was seconded by Rwanda’s Oda Gasinzigwa amid protestations from Uganda’s state minister for East African Community affairs, Julius Maganda, who is the current chair of the council of ministers.
“Parliaments around the globe have transformed into fully fledged independent institutions with unfettered mandates capable of holding the executive to account and to carry out the oversight roles without undue interference; hence, there is compelling argument that the assembly should discharge its functions without the interference of the council [of ministers] or secretariat to allow overall good parliamentary governance,” Nakawuki told the sssembly.
She based her motion on two studies, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) study group on the administration and financing of parliaments done in 2005, and the recent CPA benchmarks for the democratic legislatures of the Caribbean, Americans and the Atlantic region.
“Each of these studies contains instructive recommendations for the independent governance of modern parliaments and promoting reformation of the management structures of parliaments to provide for services and funding entitlements,” Nakawuki said.
Abdikadir Aden (Kenya) said the mandate of the assembly was key in the integration process, adding that autonomy in terms of administrative ability to organise its work remained fundamental.
At its 33rd meeting, the EAC council of ministers resolved in March 2016 to grant EALA and the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) financial and administrative autonomy.
Maganda, however, argued that since the matter of autonomy touched on the operations of the community, the motion should have been delayed until after the next meeting of the Council of Ministers.
“It is true we resolved to permit and give the assembly some bit of autonomy in finance and administration but the council of ministers is still conducting a study on which areas of autonomy can be given to the assembly, and, those that can be still held by the secretariat and council,” Maganda told The Observer on Wednesday.
Maganda stated that the EAC Secretariat was directed to come up with a paper defining the scope of the autonomy from its perspective.
“If the council of ministers allows the assembly to go on without the report [from the study], it can create a conflict. The council is going to debate [the resolution of the assembly] in April ahead of the new budget because the 2018/19 EAC budget should have the aspect of implementing the directive of the autonomy,” Maganda said.
However, Mukasa Mbidde (Uganda), a member of the EALA Commission, told The Observer that the commission will go ahead to implement the resolution. “We are going to sit and see how we are going to implement it,” Mbidde said.