On President’s Powers To Appoint URA Commissioner General
Last week social media was ablaze after President Museveni communicated his appointment of Musinguzi Julius Rujoki as the new Commissioner General for URA.
The appointment attracted many critics across all political divides and Dr. Col Kizza Byesigye regarded it as illegitimate and political in nature.
That it was an appreciation for Rujoki’s assistance to appear as a witness in the rape case in 2006 against him.
However, the stage was dominated by law scholars from all levels, ranging from practicing advocates to law students.
The central issue for discussion was whether the appointment was valid.
In my opinion, to address the validity of the appointment, it calls upon us to examine two key issues.
Firstly, whether the president has power to appoint the commissioner of URA.
And secondly although quite contingent against the first, that if he does have such powers, did the president act in accordance with the law when he appointed Mr Musinguzi Julius Rujoki as the commissioner general of the URA.
The Law that provides for the appointment and sacking of the Commissioner General of URA is the URA Act.
Section 9 of this Act vests these powers in the minister on the recommendation of the board.
The issue that follows from this provision is therefore whether the president not the minister can exercise these powers.
I think the proposition that it is only the minister that can appoint as required under the quoted section follows from a strict interpretation of the statute.
This means that proponents of the argument were either ignorant or stubbornly ignored the Administrative law principles and relevant Articles that apply.
Article 99(1) of the Constitution is crystal clear that executive authority of Uganda is vested in the president and empowers him/her as such to make new appointments or disappointments as he/she may deem fit.
This is fortified by Article 98(1) which recognizes the president as head of the Executive arm of Government.
However, due to the nature of his job and how busy the office is, he is empowered to delegate the exercise of his administrative authority such as the power to appoint, to any person.
This means that the minister performs his duties on behalf of the president.
Imperative to note, URA falls under the executive arm of Government and thus is under the full authority of the president as head of the Executive.
This has been subject of judicial consideration and the learned judge A. E. N Mpagi Bahegeine in Severino Twinobusingye vs A. G held that the president enjoys discretionary powers to appoint and disappoint and courts ought to observe the notion.
There is nothing that precludes a principal who has delegated his/her power to recall it and exercise it.
In fact, one of the principles of delegation is that the principal has power to call back his/her powers.
Further, the Interpretation Act under section 31 empowers the present to exercise the powers of ministers.
However, this particular provision is ambiguous and opponents peddled the argument, quite plausible in my opinion, that it only talks about signing off instead of appointment.
However notwithstanding, ultimate executive authority vests in the president and a minister only exercises powers on behalf of the president.
This means therefore that a president can exercise any executive power.
The other limb of my argument inorder to test the validity of the appointment as noted earlier is whether the president in appointing Musinguzi Julius Rujoki as the new Commissioner General for URA acted so in accordance with the procedure required.
Section 9 of the URA Act is to the effect that the minister can only appoint upon the recommendation of the board.
This essentially means that a recommendation from the board must as of a matter of law precede the appointment.
The argument that was peddled under this limb was that the president if so had the powers to appoint he did not do so on recommendations of the URA Board.
The concept of rule of law and in the broad sense administrative law requires administrative authorities and officers to exercise their powers according to the established law.
The president is not above the law and incase he disregards any law, his actions will be found ultra vires and therefore null.
However, my point of departure from the proponents of this argument is rather a factual one.
Appointments are valid per se unless proved otherwise.
The duty is on a person alleging such irregularities that invalidate the appointment to prove that the required procedure was not followed.
It is really a divorce of reality to claim that had the procedure been followed then the citizens would have known.
It is rare if not impossible at all to find information regarding decisions of boards of different public corporations in the public domain.
Therefore you cannot appeal to your ignorance over compliance with the required procedure to make a conclusion that the appointment is invalid.
I have already explained the presumption regarding the appointment.
In conclusion therefore, the appointment of Musinguzi Julius Rujoki as the new Commissioner General for URA for the foregoing reasons is valid.