Tempers flare as govt tables 39 Bills on merger of agencies

Legislators during the plenary session chaired by Speaker Anita Among in Parliament recently. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • This came after the government tabled the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2023, in disregard of the desired reforms in the planned Constitutional Review Commission.

Tempers flared in Parliament yesterday as Opposition lawmakers tried to block the government from tabling 39 Bills, accusing the Executive of double standards.

Trouble started after the government tabled the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2023, in disregard of the desired wide-ranging reforms in the planned Constitutional Review Commission. For years, the Opposition side has struggled to effect changes in the 1995 Constitution.
In June last year, the Opposition launched consultations on proposals for the amendment of the Constitution to introduce reforms that they hope will improve the country’s political landscape.

The government had promised a comprehensive Constitutional Review Commission. However, it is not clear when this will come even as the Attorney General, Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka, yesterday guided the lawmakers to wait for a brief from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

More than 2,200 government employees are expected to lose their jobs after the planned rationalisation and merging of several public agencies. The planned merger, however, seeks to save Shs1 trillion annually and simultaneously cut wastage and the cost of public administration.
Some of the key Bills tabled by the respective ministers include; the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, o2023,  the National Tribunal Bill, 2023 and the  Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2024.

Opposition arguments
The key Bills seeking to amend the parent laws and provide for the planned rationalisation of government agencies were, however, tabled amid fierce protests from the Opposition side. The lawmakers attempted to block the tabling of the Bills on account of the government refusal to table a comprehensive Constitutional Amendment Bill that addresses the desired reforms in the country.

The Opposition lawmakers argued that some of the merger Bills involve revisiting provisions of the 1995 Constitution, yet all previous attempts by a section of other legislators to effect laws that require amending problematic sections of the Constitution were denied.
Bugiri Municipality MP Asuman Basalirwa (Jeema) cited double standards and reasoned that the decision of the government and Parliament to okay the proposed amendments in the merger Bills defeats the previous decision to only effect such changes after the government set a Constitutional Review Commission.

“This relates to constitutional amendments we have been calling for. We had agreed that all matters related to constitutional amendment be halted to allow the Executive establish a constitutional review commission for us to comprehensively deal with matters of the Constitution,” Mr Basalirwa said.
“If we allow this Bill, Parliament will be probating and at the same time reprobating. I don’t know whether we are proceeding well, when the Executive comes with their issues, they okay constitutional amendment but when it is a business of other Members of Parliament, it is not allowed,” he added.
Equally, the former Leader of the Opposition, Mr Mathias Mpuuga,  reiterated that the proposed amendments are likely to shake the core of government decentralisation into centralisation and proposed  what he called “a consolidated Bill.”

“Can the Attorney General give this House an indication of the intention of the government in the interim by bringing these particular amendments, and then what became of the peripheral promises for a wide-ranging constitutional amendment?” Mr Mpuuga wondered.

Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (FDC) argued that, “since matters are constitutional, there must be adequate consultation… the Bills must be given enough time, we can even pass them next year, and it is not that the roof is coming down.”
However, Speaker Anita Among, who chaired yesterday’s plenary session, guided that the House rules of procedure provide that the committees should report back to Parliament within 45 days.

The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, however, without naming the critical agencies he wants to save, appealed to the Executive to reconsider its stance on some of the affected agencies. “Although the idea is to rationalise agencies, particularly those duplicating the roles of the other, some entities must be given a second chance because of their critical nature,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
“There are some [entities] that we must give a second thought to because of their critical nature. But we have adequate time to exhaust all the issues. We also want something comprehensive, not these piecemeal because they will become problematic,” he added.

Regarding the comprehensive constitutional amendments, the Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, revealed that; “the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has collected 73 proposals for amendment.” 

Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka speaks during the plenary session in Parliament on February 20, 2024

He added that “the minister has also instructed the Uganda Law Reform Commission to collect them [amendment proposals] and look at their effects on other various parts of the constitution and that process is ongoing.”
The AG assured the House that the Justice and Constitutional Affairs ministry will be briefing Parliament once the consolidated constitutional amendments take shape.

Among intervenes
Speaker Among called for calm and requested lawmakers to allow the first reading of the merger Bills, saying  further debates will be conducted at committee stage and other review sessions.
“This House made these acts, it, therefore, has the powers to repeal, reject or merge, let us not debate something we have not received,” she said.

The Minister of Public Service, Mr Muruli Mukasa, led the tabling of the amendment Bills, informing Parliament that all of them are ready together with certificates of financial implication issued by Finance Minister Matia Kasaija. The Speaker forwarded the bills to the respective committees for scrutiny. In November last year, Parliament rejected the government’s ‘omnibus’ Rationalisation of Government Agencies (repeals and Amendments) Bill, 2023.
Parliament reasoned that the Bill would be hard to effect since agencies were spread across various sectors and this would require input from various committees and or string of stakeholders.

Prior to this, the government had severally indicated that it would move to merge or collapse agencies so that they are merged back into their respective mother ministries.
Early this month, following the NRM parliamentary caucus that was chaired by the NRM party chairperson, President Museveni, it was resolved that the process to merge government agencies be undertaken with Parliament supporting and also okaying the said legislation.


1. The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2023 
 2. The National Tribunal Bill, 2023.
3. Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2024.
 4. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Education Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024
 5. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Trade Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024. 
 6. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Internal Affairs Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024

  7. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Finance Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024  
8. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Water and Environment Sector) (Amendment) Bill. 2024 

 9. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Agriculture Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024 
 10. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Agriculture Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024, which entails;
11. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Works and Transport Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024

12. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Social Development Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024 which includes;
 13. The Rationalisation of Government Agencies (Tourism Sector) (Amendment) Bill, 2024, which includes; 

 a) Amendment of the Uganda Wildlife Act, 2019 (Act 17 Of 2019)
  b) Repeal of Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre Act, 2015 (Act 27 Of 2015) 
 14. Karamoja Development Agency (Repeal) Bill, 2024 
 15. The Uganda National Information Technology Authority Uganda (Amendment) Bill, 2024
 15. The National Records and Archives (Amendment) Bill, 2024.