Why East African Community will reduce number of its lawmakers

The regional law making body will also sit only four times a year

THURSDAY January 20, 2022

The East African Community flag (Right) along with those of partner states of the bloc. PHOTOS | EAC

By Joe Lihundi

Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) is the most expensive House to run in Africa, a report of a study carried out by Ernst & Young LLP reveals.

The EAC Budget analysis, for instance, shows the regional House took over 35 per cent of the 2018/19 partner states’ contributions, making it the costliest assembly compared to national and regional parliamentary assemblies on the continent.

The study stipulated in the Report of the 41st Meeting of the EAC Council of Ministers held in November last year shows the budget share of the assembly was closely followed by the East African Secretariat at 35.16 per cent and that of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) at 7.06 per cent.

The study also found that EALA has the highest number of sittings compared to the AU Pan-African Parliament, SADC Parliamentary Forum, Ecowas Parliament, Network of Parliamentarians of Central Africa and the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Unlike other regional parliamentary outfits, the EALA mode of operation mirrors that of partner states’ national assemblies which have powers to make own rules of procedure and to constitute committees.

East African Legislative Assembly Speaker Martin Ngoga presides over a past meeting of the House in Arusha, Tanzania.

A three-week EALA session last year, for instance, needed over $300,000 for paying per diem and other allowances to the regional lawmakers, staff and other invited officials, according to reliable sources within the bloc interviewed by a Tanzania’s English daily newspaper. The EALA members are in addition paid monthly salaries.

The study findings compelled the 12thmeeting of the Sectoral Council on Finance and Economic Affairs (SCFEA) to recommend to the EAC Heads of State Summit to issue a directive to reduce the number of EALA members from nine to five.

The study says the decision for the number of EALA members from each partner state to be nine was overtaken by events, as it was made when the bloc comprised only three founding states, namely Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Much as the number of partner states has doubled and is about to increase further, the study recommends to the community to consider revisiting the number of EALA members appointed from each partner state.

The SCFEA, which met in Arusha early in May last year for finance ministers’ pre-budget consultations, also recommended to the summit to reduce the number of EALA sittings to four per financial year as is the case with other regional parliamentary assemblies in a bid to cut down the cost.

The East African Legislative Assembly member, Mr Paul Musamali, contributes to a debate in the regional assembly.

To the astonishment of the EALA members, late last month the EAC Council of Ministers adopted the recommendations ready for submitting them to the summit.

The EALA members reminded the Council of Ministers during their last debate in the House towards the end of last year over the need for tabling and debating a motion on reducing their number for the decision to become legally binding.

One of the members, Ms Yahaya Maryam Ussi, said EALA being the sole regional house on the continent enacting laws that were above the national ones, the number of its members ought to increase instead of decreasing.

The East African Community Secretariat in 2019 commissioned Ernst & Young to carry out the study on the structure, programmes and activities of the bloc at $120,000 and to propose reforms that will be commensurate with financial resources from the partner states.

Among several other key findings of the study include the partner states’ contributions being the most reliable sources of funding the community between 2012/13 and 2018/19 following the declining support from development partners.

The partner states’ contributions accounted for 66 per cent of the total budget realised during the period in review as opposed to development partners’ share of 34 per cent.

The East African Legislative Assembly debate chamber in Arusha.

Belated remittance of the partner states’ contributions, nonetheless, had greatly affected activities of the EAC organs and institutions, with arrears standing at $33. 1 million by April last year.

Most of the EAC budget is used for funding current expenditure with little going to capital expenditure. Over 50 per cent of the partner states’ contributions in 2018/19 was budgeted for staff salaries and remuneration, 25.2 per cent for meetings and conferences, 7.9 per cent for administration and support and barely 11.6 per cent for projects and programmes. The remainder was budgeted for consultancies and staff capacity buildingΩ

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