East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has tasked the Council of Ministers of the East African Community to urgently address the issue of partner states that default on payment of membership contributions.
The decision was taken on Thursday at the conclusion of the regional assembly’s sitting in Arusha, Tanzania.
The assembly wants the Council of Ministers, the central decision-making and governing organ of the EAC, to address the matter and, indicated that South Sudan, which was put on the spot for prolonged non-payment, be given until end this month to pay up.
The Council is the bloc’s second most important organ after the Summit, which comprises Heads of State. The Council comprises Ministers or Cabinet Secretaries from Partner States whose dockets are responsible for regional co-operation.
“The Assembly has recommended that the Council of Ministers should consider invoking Article 143 or 146 to impose sanctions against Partner States that default on payment,” reads part of an EALA statement.
Article 143 (sanctions) states that a partner state which defaults in meeting its financial and other obligations under the Treaty shall be subject to such action as the Summit may, on the recommendation of the Council, determine.
On Thursday, all focus was on the petition from a regional civil society forum seeking, among others, to sue member states that default on their financial obligations.
Once MP Aden Omar Abdikadir, the Chairperson of EALA’s Committee on General Purpose, presented his committee’s report on the matter, some members described the situation as “a cancer eating up the East African Community.”
The Committee met Council members this week.
“There’re many institutions of the Community that are stalled due to financial challenges,” MP Rose Akol said.
Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC affairs, Adan Mohamed, said the Council of Ministers will look into the recommendations of the regional House.
He said Council expects that a report on an alternative funding mechanism will be on its agenda before the next Summit of EAC Heads of State next month.
The report is also expected to address the current policy of zero budget increase ceiling.
“The Council is aware that, once concluded, the alternative funding mechanism will be a solution to the financial challenges. Council will continue directing Partner States to remit the finances in a timely manner,” Mohammed said.
The minister also informed the House that the Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for EAC Affairs and Planning “at its 24th Meeting directed the EAC Secretary General to make proposals on sanctions” that can be imposed on EAC partner states that breach the EAC Treaty in line with Article 143.
“The Secretariat has already prepared a draft Schedule of Sanctions to be applied automatically which are still under consideration. The draft Schedule of Sanctions goes beyond the non-remittance of financial contributions to other breaches of the Treaty,” he said.
The Committee on General Purpose was last week tasked to follow up on the matter.
Last month, in a petition to the regional assembly, the region’s civil society body threatened to sue member states that default on their financial obligations. The East African Civil Society Organisation Forum (EACSOF) threatened to petition the East African Court of Justice, noting that they were perplexed by the failure of partner states to meet their financial obligations to the EAC.
By the end of the first quarter it was only Rwanda and Uganda that had remitted for 2019/20.
Average aggregate contributions for the 2018/19 financial year were at just 59 per cent to the EAC, which is already suffering a zero per cent budget increase for almost a decade.
EACSOF, among other things, would like the Summit to invoke articles 143 and 146 on partner states that have met the criteria of activation of that particular article.
The topic of financing mechanism has often been a top agenda item for previous EAC Summits.
Article 146 (suspension of a member), on the other hand, notes that the Summit may suspend a partner state from taking part in the activities of the community if that State fails to observe and fulfil the fundamental principles and objectives of the Treaty, including failure to meet financial commitments to the Community within a period of 18 months.
The clause states that a Partner State suspended under such circumstances shall cease to enjoy the benefits provided for under this Treaty but shall continue to be bound by membership obligations until the suspension is lifted.
For long, internal resources have remained constrained as countries continuously failed to make their obligatory remittances to the EAC Secretariat on time.
Funding has long been a challenge because the EAC budget is largely donor-dependent.