States move to cut number of EALA MPs

The East African legislative assembly headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • The East African Legislative Assembly ’s (Eala) Sectoral Council on Finance and Economic Affairs announced the proposal.

Ministers in charge of East African Affairs are considering a proposal to reduce the number of elected members at the regional parliament from nine to five to cut costs.

The East African Legislative Assembly ’s (Eala) Sectoral Council on Finance and Economic Affairs announced the proposal in a report presented at a Monday sitting in Arusha, Tanzania. 

The report shows that compared to its peers — Ecowas and SADC — Eala has the highest number of representatives, making it the most expensive to run.

The report also shows that the assembly takes the lion’s share of the partner states’ contributions at 35.35 percent followed by the Secretariat at 35.16 percent, and the East Africa Court of Justice at 7.06 percent.

 “Eala takes almost 35 percent of the partners states’ contribution as noted in the budget analysis section, making it the most expensive assembly to run…The decision for the number of Eala members from each partner state to be nine was made when member states were only three,” the report states.

“Now that the number of member states has doubled and is likely to increase, there is need to reconsider the number of Eala members appointed from each partner states,” it adds.

The move comes as the regional bloc grapples with budget shortfalls that have largely been attributed to failure by member states to make remittances. The report also shows that Eala has the highest number of sittings among all the benchmarked peer regional parliamentary assemblies, further bloating its budget. 

The council wants the sitting of the assembly be to reduced to four from six inside a calendar year.

The proposal has, however, sent jitters across the members, with majority dismissing the move as ill informed and intended to cripple operations. 

Eala legislator Fred Mukasa Mbidde told Daily Monitor that downsizing will not address the budgetary constraints since they are as a result of failure by member states to meet their contributions. 

Mr Mbidde said if such a policy is to ever be considered, it should cut across all organs of the bloc, including the Summit.

“The proposal is rather preposterous. It shoots the very objective that made it a logical necessity for the Eala to be created…If you look at Eala in terms of how much you spend on it rather than the workload available to make East African integration closer to the people, then you have failed,” he said.

Mr Mbidde, however, said this could have been informed by the weak performance by the members on issues that affect the people of East Africa. 

Mr Mbidde said in the event that the presidents adopt the policy, he will go to court.

Members' reactions

“When you reduce numbers of the assembly, what do you want to achieve? We were sitting the other days in the commission and we were trying to allocate work for this plenary,” Ms Rose Akol, an Eala  legislator, told NTV.

Mr Paul Musamali, another Eala representative, described the proposal as “very unfortunate”, saying the attempts to downsize “are all manoeuvres and manipulations that are aimed at collapsing the community.”