Parliament passes returned competition bill

Parliament has reconsidered and passed the Competition Bill which was earlier returned by the President on 24 July 2023.

President Yoweri Museveni declined to sign the Bill on the basis that Clause 4 establishes the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission which attracts a charge on the Consolidated Fund.

Article 93 (a) of the constitution prohibits Parliament from proceeding on a Bill or an amendment, unless it is done on behalf of government which imposes a charge on any public funds.

The Competition Bill, 2023 is intended to facilitate fair competition in markets and prevent practices having adverse impacts on competition in markets and primarily seeks to control anti-competitive behaviour of firms that has a negative impact on competition in Uganda’s market.

The President argued that the clause is contrary to government policy on rationalisation which has since halted creation of new government agencies. The President instead proposed that Bill be administered by the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry.

Parliament was in agreement with the President’s view on the Bill’s effect on the Consolidated Fund but disagreed on the issue of rationalisation.

“The framers of the constitution were of the opinion that whether you are in position to get monies to fund any processes, as long as there is an implication on the Consolidated Fund, the hands are tied. So we are constitutionally barred from proceeding on establishment of the commission on the account of Article 93 (a) of the Constitution,” said Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality).

He said that the argument of the Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry that the commission will be self-financing through fines and charger fees is not premised in the constitution.

Hon. Catherine Lamwaka, the trade committee’s deputy chairperson presenting the report on the Floor of Parliament

The committee in its report posits that “the commission will be self-financing, through charger fees, merger fees, fines, and penalties. The commission will be increasing revenues to government”.

On rationalisation, Parliament noted that although government has frozen the creation of new agencies, the policy still provides for agencies with distinguishable and prominent mandate such as the Uganda Revenue Authority to remain.

“Over 80 agencies will remain according to the policy. This is a clear indication there are exceptions in the rationalisation policy, it is the committee’s convinced opinion that the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission qualifies to constitute the 80 agencies that will not be affected by the rationalisation policy,” said Hon. Catherine Lamwaka, the trade committee’s deputy chairperson.

The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, supported the committee’s recommendation which she said is in line with Parliament’s position on rationalisation.

Among charged the State Minister for Industry, Hon. David Bahati, to bring an amendment of Article 93 which would then provide from the creation of the commission envisaged to be self-financing.

Bahati’s attempts to reiterate the President’s recommendation that the competition commission be replaced with just a committee in the trade ministry was met with opposition. He pledged to consider introducing an amendment as requested.

“Once this Bill has been passed and has been assented to, I will make consultations and after we can consider bringing the amendment,” said Bahati.

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