Saturday February 8 2014

Desparate measures to hold onto power breed frustration

By Nathan Nandala Mafabi

Before last Christmas, it was reported that the Executive intended to introduce a Bill to Parliament. This Bill once passed into law will compel all civil servants to obey the President’s directive without question. It is not surprising that the President is reported to have warned judges, saying once provoked, he would use Parliament to curtail powers of judges.

President Museveni’s remark to the judges is just part of a series of his desperate measures to consolidate power in his hands and in the hands of his cronies by eroding powers of other institutions. True to his tested ways, he is using one institution against another or one office (r) against another. Very saddening!

Last year, I attended Obongi day in Obongi Constitutency -Moyo District. Faced with the challenge of lack of an ambulance and the indignity with which mothers travel when referred to Health Centre IV, the people of Obongi took the initiative to fundraise amongst themselves and friends for this cause.

To the surprise of many people who turned up for this day, we learnt that the government through the RDC and DISOs, was frustrating this community initiative by threatening residents not to contribute towards this noble cause!
Again, while on the parliamentary outreach programme in West Nile sub-region, MPs learnt with surprise that the Executive has issued two letters to Local Governments without the knowledge of Parliament as would ordinarily have been appropriate. The first circular informed Local Governments about the change of protocol.

According to this circular, RDCs are now above the LC5 Chairperson in the district. In the second circular, RDCs are to preside over all functions in the district ranging from national day celebrations to commissioning of a school or borehole! These directives have not been received well by politicians in Local Governments who feel that occasions that would enable them to exercise their oversight roles have been re-assigned to RDCs, yet the Local Government Act (LGA) clearly states who the political head of the district is. As can be seen, the RDC’s office is being used to antagonise the Local Government offices.

The bigger challenge to this though, is reconciling the roles of an RDC with this new “promotion”.
The role of an RDC is operational and advisory as stipulated in the LGA Section 71. An RDC is expected to monitor and inspect activities of Local Governments and where necessary, advise the chairperson. The RDC can also advise the chairperson to instruct the chief internal auditor to carry out a special audit; draw attention of the Auditor General to the need for special investigation audits of the Local Government Council; draw attention of the Inspector General of Government to a need to investigate any case of mismanagement or abuse of office and raise line ministries if there is divergence or non-compliance with government policy by the Council. As shown, these are advisory roles which may or may not be taken up by the advisee!

Elevating RDCs above chairpersons now means that the RDCs’ initiatives will no longer be advisory but mandatory orders. The other implication is that the LGA has to be amended to harmonise the two positions.

Since Mr Museveni’s pronouncement in Luweero last year that he was going to use soldiers (and perhaps cadres) to take over service delivery, we have witnessed civil servants assume a larger than life attitude. There is total disrespect of institutions and breakdown of law and order. The cadres have no respect for the people they are supposed to be accountable to! That is why a cadre servant like Jennipher Musisi wakes up one day and closes the entire KCCA!

Retrospectively though, when one adds up the panic of RDCs in Obongi, the administrative circulars being sneaked to Local Governments; the Public Order Management Act; the proposed presidential law; and the outbursts in a seeming act of anger towards the Judiciary, then you get the sense that Mr Museveni’s paranoia of institutions and citizens is blowing through the roof.

Unfortunately, like predestination, the more the regime tries desperate measures to have a tight grip over power, the more they frustrate people and the likelihood that people will be raged into an uproar, peaceful or otherwise.
Happy New Year to all!

Mr Mafabi is the Member of Parliament for Budadiri West.