Legal fight over COSASE looms
Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | Jan. 14 could see sparks in parliament in a dispute between Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and leaders of the opposition over the tenure of the committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).
Led by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu and his deputy, Bukedea Woman MP Anita Among, COSASE has become one of the most important committees for its handling of what is being billed as parliament’s biggest investigation in many years; the investigation into the central bank’s closure of seven defunct banks, which started in October last year.
Leadership of COSASE has over time become a platform of prestige, political influence and posturing, and some say, financial gain.
The committee’s tenure and that of 11 other committees expires on Jan.13 but the Speaker has singled out COSASE and indicated that she prefers its current leaders to continue in their positions, a position opposed by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) which appointed them and has shuffled them.
In the rules of parliament, the appointment of chairpersons of sectoral committees such as COSASE is covered under Rule 184 which covers the “Composition of Sectoral Committees”.
Section (2) of Rule 184 states that: “In the selection of Members of Sectoral Committees, the parties or organisations represented in Parliament shall designate through the Whips, Membership to Committees on the basis of party or organisation representation in the House”.
Section (5) adds that: “Parties or organisations shall have powers to withdraw and relocate members from individual committees.”
The function of whips in selecting chairpersons of committees is also addressed under section Rule 15 section (10) under “Other functions of the Government Chief Whip, Opposition Chief Whip and Party Whip shall include—“(c) supplying lists of Members to serve on Standing and sectoral Committees”.
Opposition chief whip, Semujju Nganda who shuffled the COSASE leadership, told The Independent that as the opposition, they would stick to the law and reject Kadaga’s move to extend Katuntu and Among’s tenure.
“If they insist,” Nganda warned, “there will be no COSASE come January 13. They might go ahead with their investigation but there will be no report. Someone will go to court and it will be null and void.”
Katuntu is the problem
The Leader of Opposition, Gulu Woman MP Betty Aol Ochan, told The Independent that Katuntu’s approach is part of the problem.
“If the issue was really that they had not concluded their work,” Ochan said, “they should have approached the Opposition Chief Whip, who designates these roles and made this point. This would have been understandable.”
Instead, Ochan said, they skipped this office and went direct to the Speaker creating a sense that they undermined the other offices.
“When you do things in what appears to be bad faith,” she told The Independent, “you cause these kinds of unnecessary conflicts.”
She said her colleagues Katuntu and Anita Among had “politicised the whole issue”.
But as the FDC leadership insisted on their position, Kadaga told a press conference at parliament that her decision would be final.
“I am the head of this institution and my proposal is good for the institution,” Kadaga said, “What we are doing is the work for the people of Uganda not for parties. COSASE is winding up on the Bank of Uganda investigations. We expect them to write the report and hand it over to the House before they move.”