June 11, 2020

Parliament Strips itself of Powers to Establish or Disband Government Agencies

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Inside the 80-member Chamber of Deputies, the lower House of Parliament. Both Houses will be observers in how the executive manages some key affairs

Parliament will no longer have any role in the establishment or disbandment of government agencies, once a new amendment bill becomes law.

Both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate have endorsed a new bill that takes away their power to pass laws establishing or removing government’s business oriented institutions. The House voted through the bill earlier, and late May the Senate also did the same.

In the bill awaiting Presidential Assent, these powers have been transferred to the President and Finance Minister. As set in the bill that the changes come into force after two years, it means from 2022, moneymaking and investment oriented agencies like RwandAir, RDB, WASAC, REG and many more – are solely the responsibility of the President.

Under the new changes, the President can wake up any morning and set up a government agency. With the same power to disband any agency as he sees fit without any separate review.

Opponents of the bill, whose voices were swallowed by the overwhelming majority, indicated that they feared the concentration of power in hands of one arm of government, the executive.

Instead, Parliament will only be left with possibility of knowing what happens in some of those agencies from Auditor General’s reports.

The Genesis of these new momentous changes emanated from cabinet through the Labour and Public Service Minister Fanfan K. Rwanyindo. Government wants to amend a 2016 law governing public institutions.

In her explanatory note, Rwanyindo said the existing legal regime was curtailing government’s ability to implement its plans quickly.

“The enactment of a law takes a long process from its initiation to publication whereas Government policies, programs, strategies like National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) require an accelerated implementation by public institutions,” she said.

“Thus the establishment of public institution by a law does not respond to the need of accelerating the implementation of Government policies, programs, strategies and quick service delivery.”

The old law creates cumbersome entities operating both as commercial and non-commercial like RSSB. In the new law, institutions like RSSB may be broken up into separate entities, so that there are solely money-making agencies and ones with no mandate to make money.

Going forward, there will be two categories of government autonomous bodies; Non-commercial public institutions and State owned companies.

Some of the existing bodies concerned with the new law include the Rwanda Convention Bureau, Rwanda Cooperation Initiative, water utility WASAC, power utility REG, RSSB which manages pensions and health insurance, the National Agricultural Export Development Board (NAEB), RwandAir and many others.

Under the existing status, if President Kagame wanted to set up a new agency, he has to seek law establishing it from Parliament. Also, if he wanted to reorganize any such agency, he also needed parliamentary approval.

For example, in future if the President is not happy with national carrier RwandAir, he can simply decree disbanding it. Legally, he will not need to ask anyone as the new law allows him.

Not all Parliamentary involvement has been removed though, according Green Party leader and lawmaker Dr Frank Habineza. Together with his party colleague Jean Claude Ntezimana, they were the only two MPs who voted against the new bill.

Habineza told The Chronicles this Thursday that Parliament’s role “will be minimal”, noting: “But the Auditor General will audit them, then from that Parliament will do oversight.”

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