Last Friday, I was invited to speak at a workshop on Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) on the subject, “The Kampala we want”. The letter inviting me specifically asked me to “highlight the lacuna in the law and possibly make proposals to strengthen the administration of Kampala capital city.” To my surprise, one of the divisional mayors was so incensed with my views that he asserted that they were brought in bad faith.
The city is currently governed by the Kampala Capital City Act of 2010, which provides for setting up an Authority with a Lord Mayor and an Executive Director appointed by the President pursuant to Article 5 of the Constitution, which vests the administration of the city in the government. This differs from the previous law under which the city was equated to a district and a directly elected mayor performed the district chairman role.
The interpretation of some provision of the new law has led to conflict, which have affected service delivery. For example, Section 18(f) requires the Executive Director to prepare a budget for the Authority and at the same time Section 49 reads: “The Authority shall formulate, approve and execute budgets and plans….” Another serious lacuna is found in the section which makes the Executive Director the head of public service of the administration of the Authority but at the same time another provision provides that “the Lord Mayor shall be “head of the Authority in developing strategies and programmes…” This role is normally performed by the administration in any organisation.
These conflicts and many others would have been avoided if the law followed one of the internationally recognised models for municipal governance. Prior to the passing of the law, a group of consultants submitted their report on how Kampala should be governed. However, both the line ministry and Parliament changed the draft proposals to bring the law to equate the Authority the system of local government which is based on the district as principal unit and decentralisation of powers and functions to lower local governments. The result was a law of disjointed ideas.
Three internationally recognised models govern the way modern municipalities are run. They are the council-manager, mayor-council and commission models. Under the council-manager system, the manager is the chief administrative officer who supervises all council business. Policy decisions are made by council on the recommendation of the manager and staff. Under the mayor-council model, the administrative authority are vested in the mayor while all legislative powers lie with council. The council employs a professional manager who heads the administration.
The consultant recommended a system similar to the council-manager version with all the administrative powers vested with the manager. When Parliament in its wisdom set up the office of Lord Mayor, it created an executive role for him without first reconciling this with the role which had been assigned to the manager. Secondly, Parliament created a political structure for the authority similar to that of a local government without giving an executive role to the mayors and councils of the lower units.
To resolve this conflict, we should adopt either the mayor- council system where the Lord Mayor has executive authority or the council-manager model. The divisions should become municipalities as they were before independent from the Authority and be given authority over all functions which are not assigned to the Authority. The Authority should become a special agency of government charged with the duty of modernising the capital city. The Authority’s Five Year Plan confirms that it is up to the task.
Mr Mulira is a lawyer.