KCCA Crisis and The Quest For Legislative Reform

Lukwago says Musisi is mismanaging KCCA and that donor should do an audit of the funds to the city authority

what is ed geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>Following the impeachment of Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago by a tribunal of councillors, and the subsequent annulment of that decision by the High Court, a big scandal has erupted that is increasingly drawing in a wide range of political actors.

One would be grossly mistaken to think that this is a small-scale political battle confined to the city.

The meeting of city councillors with President Yoweri Museveni soon after producing the controversial report accusing Lukwago of incompetence, and the alliance of Dr. Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s main political challenger, with the Lord Mayor, clearly illustrates the breadth of this tag-of-war.

While commentators in various media have been ardent at dissecting the crisis, few analysts have gone above the usual arguments of partisan politics.

On one hand, the government has been quick to blame Lukwago for obstructing development; on the other hand, the opposition is angry at the perceived persecution from the executive arm of government.

Accusing fingers have been pointed in every direction except one – the parliament.

The conflict between the political and the technocratic heads of KCCA, Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago and Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi, respectively, is not a surprising phenomenon.

Why, friction between politicians and bureaucrats is not uncommon in political systems, especially in developing countries.

What makes Kampala’s predicament unique is the fact that it arises from a legislative error; the failure by the parliament, while enacting the KCCA Act, to clearly define the roles of the two key offices.

With such role ambiguity, a conflict was bound to happen between the Executive Director and the Lord Mayor, regardless of who occupied any of the two offices.

Thus the seeds for the present chaos in the city were sown during the enactment of the KCCA Act.

Hence the problem is not so much Lukwago’s alleged incompetence and “abuse of office”; rather, it is the vagueness of the law that failed to articulate the distinctive spheres of authority of the Executive Director and the Lord Mayor.

As long as this fundamental flaw is not rectified, the current bickering between the two offices will still exist even twenty or thirty years from now when Lukwago and Musisi are long gone.

It is less a leadership problem, therefore, and more a legal one.

The roots of the problem

One must then wonder how this oversight came to happen. Obviously, it must have arisen from the parliament enacting the KCCA Act with political lenses on.

It should be remembered that since 1998 when Nasser Sebaggala beat a government-sponsored candidate to win the mayoral seat, Kampala has increasingly become a hot-bed of the opposition.

Having lost any hope of ever winning the Mayoral position in city, it seemed politically strategic for the ruling party to gain some influence in the opposition stronghold by making legal provisions for a government-appointed bureaucrat to take charge of the city administration.

Thus political considerations, though not the only factor, seem to have been a strong motivation behind the establishment of the KCCA. With its legislative majority, government faced no hardship in passing the KCCA Act.

The transformation of Kampala City Council into Kampala Capital City Authority obviously had some non-partisan benefits – the Executive Director, a government appointee, could easily preside over many unpopular but developmental reforms which a Mayor, being a politician, could not do for fear of losing support among the voters.

Indeed, as seen in the past few years, the Executive Director has overseen many innovations which the Lord Mayor would have sacrificed at the altar of political expedience.

Vendors have been re-allocated, the city has been cleaner, renovations have been made, cyclists have been registered, among other plans to decongest the city.

It, therefore, goes without saying that the formation of KCCA has had some positive outcomes.

However, such innovations should not blind us to other stark realities; for instance, the technical office of the Executive Director has at times been manipulated by the government to frustrate the opposition-leaning Lord Mayor for political reasons.

With no clear role specificity in the KCCA Act, the Director easily exploited the legal loophole to usurp all the leadership powers, leaving the Lord Mayor largely ceremonial.

Thus the Executive Director’s office became a mere instrument of political witch-hunt by the government.

Another danger is that by vesting most of the Authority’s power in the hands of an unelected official, the Executive Director, the government gained lee way to carry out programs without being held accountable by the people’s representative, the Lord Mayor.

This is contrary to the spirit of a democratic society. Thus checks and balances need to be put in place by clearly specifying the definite roles of the people’s representative and the government appointee, respectively.

The need for legislative reforms

It, therefore, follows that all the current squabbles at City Hall arose from the incompetence of our parliament.

Our legislature should have been keener when enacting the KCCA Act. It should have put development considerations above politics.

But it did not, and the result of such light-hearted legislation is the current crisis in the city.

And this is just one of many incidents where the parliament has been used by the executive to further political missions – consider the removal of term limits in 2005 as another example.

It is vital to remember that this is the very House whose members earn millions of shillings (about Shs 12,000,000 each, per month), drive luxurious cars (each MP was given over Shs 100m to buy a car), and live extravagant lifestyles that their constituents only dream about (each MP has received an iPad worth Shs 2.5m).

With as many as 275 Members of Parliament, you can imagine the burden the tax payer is shouldering. In light of their extravagance, it is not unjust to say our legislators have betrayed their country.

With the large amounts of money we have invested in them, Ugandans expect something more helpful from their legislators than vague laws like the KCCA Act.

And this compels us to ask some tough questions: What if the number of legislators was reduced to 100 MPs?

What if our parliament was made bicameral, with two houses? What if it became illegal for Members of Parliament to serve concurrently as ministers in the Executive? What if the MPs’ salaries were reduced?

Wouldn’t our parliament be more non-partisan, patriotic and objective? Wouldn’t taxpayers get more value-for- money? It is not too late to start this discussion.


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