Not-for-profit organization, Walezi Wa Katiba Foundation and lawyer, Michael Abonek have petitioned the Constitutional court seeking an order to compel members of parliament who are concurrently serving as ministers to vacate their offices.
The activists argue that the current arrangement, where MPs get appointed as ministers, is contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers whose intent is to prevent the concentration of power and provide checks and balances.
According to the petitioners, the Constitution provides for the independence of the three arms of government; parliament, judiciary, and the executive. They argue that the three arms have a distinct function independent of the other.
Through their lawyers from PACE Advocates, the petitioners contend that an MP who doubles as the vice president, prime minister or minister without resigning his or her office as MP belongs to two arms of government. They describe this as a fusion of both the executive and legislature contrary to the doctrine of separation of power.
Uganda’s ninth and current vice president Jessica Alupo is also the current Woman MP for Katakwi district while prime minister Robinah Nabbanja is also currently the Woman MP for Kakumiro district. Many several MPs are also serving as ministers.
The petitioners’ lawyer, George Musisi says that the MPs who double as ministers receive double remuneration and allowances which is a waste of the taxpayers’ money.
“This argument has come up in the past. MPs who have been appointed for ministerial posts have tended to choose to receive the salary of a member of parliament because it is normally higher. MPs who get appointed to the executive however earn allowances and other benefits in the form of cash drawn from the consolidated fund. The records also indicate that the double benefits and emoluments such as vehicles, fuel allowances, and per diem for trips abroad is a wasteful expenditure and waste of taxpayers’ money contrary to public trust,” said Musisi.
There were earlier similar concerns about instances where the president appointed judges to serve in positions that fall under the executive. In 2021 the Constitutional court led by late justice Kenneth Kakuru ruled that it is illegal for a judge to be appointed to any executive or constitutional office before his/her resignation.
Kakuru’s decision was to directly affect people like the current director of public prosecutions Jane Frances Abodo, the then IGG Irene Mulyagonja, and the serving Electoral Commission chairperson justice Simon Byabakama.
The attorney general appealed to the Supreme court and secured a stay of execution order which gave the said office bearers powers to remain in the same positions save for Mulyagonja who has since returned to the Constitutional court. In their petition filed against the attorney general, the petitioners contend that the MPs who double as ministers are accountable to the president as their supervisor, and at the same time, they are expected to be independent and provide oversight over the same executive.
In his affidavit, Aboneka states that chapters 6, 7, and 8 of the Constitution provide for independent arms of government, parliament, executive, and judiciary – each with clear and distinct functions independent of the other.
“That I know that a prime minister forms the executive arm of government under chapter 7 as the leader of government business under Article 108A (2)(a) and therefore an MP who also doubles as a prime minister without resigning their former role as MP belongs to two arms of government; the legislature and executive which is a conundrum and a fusion of both executive and legislature contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers, checks and balances and legislative independence,” Aboneka states.
According to the petition, an MP who also doubles as vice president is bound by the collective responsibility doctrine to the extent that they cannot present any views of their constituents that are contrary to the cabinet /executive resolution position thereby denying their constituents the right to representation.
They now want court to address the alleged violation of the constitution and oversee that there is harmonious co-existence of the provisions of the Constitution.