Uganda’s parliament has tabled a motion to cut the powers of the Central Bank’s Governor and in effect the powers of the Bank itself, a move that, shall we say, aims to clip the Crane’s wings.
For those who do not know, the animal symbol for Uganda is the Crane. Majestic and rare to Uganda, the grey crowned crane represents the symbol of wealth, hope and fidelity. The crane appears on the national flag as well as on the country’s official coat of arms. The crane adorns several of the country’s currency and coins minted by the Central Bank of Uganda.
A private Member’s Bill was tabled recently and the details therein, “…seek to amend the Constitution as a way of streamlining the management of the Central Bank,” according to local news.
Termed the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2020, it was tabled before Parliament during a plenary sitting and was subsequently referred to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
The Bill is clear in its objectives, and number one on that list is to remove not only the Governor but also the Governor’s Deputy from chairing the Central Bank’s Board.
Currently, the two top officials sit as the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the Board and the Bill sees this as an infringement of powers of the Board. Not only would the Bill have the Governor and his deputy ousted but it would also see the two posts redefined in terms of functions of the governor and his deputy.
In effect, it calls for the governor’s resignation from the board; it looks to have Article 161 of Uganda’s 1995 Constitution amended so the governor shall not double as the chairperson of the Bank of Uganda (BoU) Board.
The Bill has its background in the 2019 report of Uganda’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase). After investigating the closure and selling of several of the country’s commercial banks, it was brought to light that the Board, which was charged with the investigation, could not sufficiently conduct its duties in a transparent and uninterrupted manner because its Chairperson and the Deputy Chairperson were the same ones being investigated.
In other words, the body that was conducting the investigation was being chaired by the person who was in effect being investigated, an obvious conflict of interest.
So the Bill would have the Governor remain as a member of the Board but not be its Chairperson. The Board is made up of seven individuals and as its forming papers declare, the Chairperson must be one of the seven. However, now the Bill wants that the Chairperson to be any one of the other six but not the Governor.
It should be noted that at the moment, the Bill seeks to amend the country’s Constitution because for now, the Governor of Uganda’s Central Bank is appointed by the country’s president as are all Board Members. Now the Bill wants to add certain clauses to this appointment including specific terms on the duties of the said offices and the functions of the governor as well as his deputy governor.
The Bill proposes among other things, the functions of the Governor to be:
- Responsible for the monetary policy.
- Handling expenditures for the Bank within approved budget by Board and Parliament
- Organizing and managing the Bank.
- Managing proper accounts of all transactions entered into by the Bank.
- e) Ensuring safe custody of all assets of the Bank and any valuables entrusted to the Bank.
- Ensuring proper discharge of duties of the staff and other employees of the Bank.
Clause 1(3) of the Bill states; “the Governor and other members of the Board shall;
- be appointed by the President with approval of Parliament;
- hold office for a term of five years and shall be eligible for re-appointment” and “the President shall appoint the chairperson of the Board from among the members”.
Whereas the proposed Article 161A provides for the office of the governor, the holder of the office would have his or her functions provided for in the new Article 161B.
Members of Uganda’s parliament moved to support the bill and in 45 days the Bill will placed before the House for deliberation. If passed, this would be the first time the country has removed from chair the sitting Chairperson of the Uganda Central Bank Board of Directors and would in effect have clipped off the powers of his office.
By merit of minting the country’s money, the office of the Central Bank Governor is symbolized by the Crane on the National Coat of Arms that appears on almost all the currencies that he authorizes.
The Uganda Grey Crane
Uganda adopted the Crane as its national symbol and then christened every colour on the bird to symbolize an aspect of the country. Black is for the people, yellow represents the sun from which Uganda gets its livelihood in agriculture and red represents the brotherhood of Ugandans with Africa and the world.