The Minister of Information, Communications, Technology and National Guidance, Dr Chris Baryomunsi has attributed the delay to create the Uganda Communications Tribunal to the recent Cabinet decision on rationalisation of agencies.
Baryomunsi said that his ministry was in the process of establishing the tribunal until cabinet halted the creation of new institutions or agencies under the current Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs) rationalisation policy which will see some agencies scrapped or merged.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) Act makes provision for creation of a tribunal which is supposed to handle complaints relating to the decisions of UCC as provided under Sections 60 and 64 of the Act.
“Work [to create a tribunal] was undertaken by my ministry but we are discussing it in the context of rationalisation. The Executive is undertaking the rationalisation exercise where agencies and departments are being reviewed and we couldn’t proceed to establish the tribunal. Cabinet cannot allow us to create new agencies,” Baryomunsi said.
He said this during the Wednesday, 22 March 20223 plenary sitting where he tabled the Uganda Communications (Fees and Fines) (Amendment) Regulations, 2023.
The regulations provide for fees and fines to be paid by telecommunication and broadcasting companies for spectrum or frequency access in order to improve telecommunication services.
His response was prompted by the Leader of Opposition (LOP), Hon. Mathias Mpuuga who accused the minister of ‘sleeping on the job’ by failing to fulfill the provisions of the UCC Act in regard to the creation of the communications tribunal.
“We have raised severally in our alternative policies the question of the minister failing to appoint the UCC tribunal. The minister is now the tribunal; he is acting as the complainant, prosecutor and judge at the same time. The Ministry [of ICT] is holding media houses at ransom with no recourse to this tribunal,” Mpuuga said.
Speaker Anita Among disregarded Baryomunsi’s excuse and insisted that he establishes the tribunal which she said has been pending for long.
“We need a tribunal. How sure are you that we are going to rationalise [government agencies]? We want a tribunal in UCC; we cannot do adhoc kind of operations,” Among said.
The Speaker referred the Regulations to the Committee on ICT and National Guidance for scrutiny with a strong caution to UCC not to start collecting fees until Parliament approves the regulations.
Section 93 of the UCC Act, 2013 states that, ‘the minister may, after consultation with the Commission and with the approval of Parliament, by statutory instrument, make regulations for better carrying into effect the provisions of this Act’.