Parliament has passed a revised district draft bill that will give Mayors more responsibility to make sure citizens are aware and educated on the new and existing laws governing the country.
The bill which was tabled by the Committee on Political Affairs and Gender this week will require mayors to move out of office, use the legal powers as government representatives at the decentralized level to work with others to make sure this happens.
The responsibility of disseminating laws among the public has been solely a responsibility of the ministry of justice, which is also charged with publishing laws and regulations in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda.
For instance, the ministry is still in charge of the promotion of support mechanisms to the community programs to enhance education of the population about laws and human rights and to promote access to justice.
With the new changes, which fall under good governance, this means mayors will be held responsible in this domain and will have to make sure that citizens are aware of laws even when this is overseen by the ministry of justice at the national level.
However, the bill raised contentious debates among lawmakers following the committee report which had proposed that this duty be sole responsibility of the district mayors.
MP Gamariel Mbonimana suggested that the job is bigger than them.
Mbonimana who insisted several times on his point argued that the mayors alone cannot deliver the job and there is a need to make it a responsibility of the whole district leadership team.
He suggested that for this to be attained, the mayor should be assisted by the district executive and council leadership.
“If the district executive is involved and the whole district leadership engaged they can disseminate the laws while meeting citizens, and this can be better if they have staff members in charge to follow up on a daily basis,” Mbonimana said.
Mbonimana argued that leaving the responsibility to the mayors will also raise confusion on a job that is supposed to be done by the ministry of justice.
“I find this to be a big responsibility that should be given to the district as a whole and specifically the district executive committee, ” Mbonimana said.
MP Emma Furaha Rubagumya, Committee chairperson said that the way the draft is written will not conflict with existing modalities but hold the mayor as the primary responsible person to be held accountable though they will work with others as far as implementation is considered.
Article 9 of the new bill also requires the Order of the Minister to establish instructions determining guidelines which the Council of the District may follow to establish the rules of procedure at the district level.
“This is different from what has been happening because the district executive will use the order to come up with guidelines unlike in the past when the ministerial order had to lay it all down,” said MP Rubagumya.
This means that the councils will follow the ministerial order guidelines to come up with their own centralized legal guidelines and instructions at the district level.
The committee also said that they added new articles which had been forgotten in the previous bill. For instance on Powers of the Council of the District to suspend a councilor or one of the members of the Executive Committee in case of misconduct and failure to discharge his/her duties, to establish administrative sanctions for persons having violated the instructions of the Council in accordance with the law.
The other is article 47 on the right of a member of the Executive Committee to appeal against action taken against him or her. This allows a member of the Executive Committee to whom an action has been taken, to lodge an appeal with a competent court if he or she feels that action has been taken unfairly. This is done within 15 days from the day of taking action.
Others are article 14 on requirements to be a candidate in executive, article 43 on remunerations and article 52- on organizational structure of the District is determined by an Order of the Prime Minister and article 64 on responsibilities, organization and functioning of governing organs of the District, those of affiliated organs and collaboration, partnership and cooperation with other organs.
The bill also clarified the definition of the District with secondary or satellite city, not as physical or administrative space but that a District may be classified as District with secondary or satellite city considered as a secondary city or a city with urbanization and trade well developed or growing fast.
This means that a district can have a city or satellite city by definition.