New law gives parish chiefs powers in physical planning

Parish chiefs will issue certificates of commencement of construction of buildings if the  proposed amendments to the Physical Planning Act, 2010 are adopted by Parliament.

The Physical Planning (Amendment) Bill, 2018 proposes that the certificate of commencement will be issued in regard to accessibility to the site, linear siting of the building, observance of public utility corridors, drainage channels and boundary wall alignments.  

The Minister of State for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Hon Isaac Musumba, presented the amendments before the committee on Physical Infrastructure on Wednesday, 31 July 2019.

He justified the need to assign parish chiefs the duty to oversee physical planning implementation and enforcement saying that, “they are already government civil servants whose mandate is to cause implementation of Government programmes at parish level”.

The Physical Planning Act, 2010 gives the mandate of physical planning to the district committee, district physical planner and the sub county chief, a decision the Minister said has contributed to poor physical planning in the country.

“Parish chiefs are on the ground. Sub county chiefs and the district physical planners on the other hand are not readily available to supervise construction especially in this era where buildings are erected overnight,” said Musumba.

He added that involving parish chiefs will curb mushrooming buildings in unwanted areas especially in road reserves and also ensure quality assurance.

“The Bill proposes that one commits an offence if they erect a building without a certificate of commencement issued by a parish chief and such a structure can be demolished,” said Musumba.

The legislators however, were concerned with the harmonisation of the roles of parish chiefs with those of the sub county chiefs, physical planning committee as well as the district physical planners.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Kafeero Ssekitoleko, welcomed the proposal but advised the Minister to ensure that there would be no conflict during implementation.  

“How will the three harmonise their positions? Will it not cause an overlap?,” Kafeero asked.

Hon. Rehema Watongola (NRM, Kamuli Municipality) questioned the competence of the parish chiefs in civil engineering.

“Since they do not have expertise in civil engineering, they are bound to make decisions which are wrong. I recommend that they work closely with the district engineers,” Watongola said.
She added that, “some parish chiefs are agents of corruption. They mismanaged the Youth Livelihood Programme. They need to be supervised closely”.

Igara East MP, Hon. Michael Mawanda, advised the minister to ensure that the parish chiefs are vetted before they are given the mandate.
“Some parish chiefs are not well educated; that needs to be checked thoroughly,” said Mawanda.

The Bill creates obligations including the need to paint one’s premises, have litter bins, street and place names and plot numbers, preservations of road reserves or environment. According to the Bill, it will be an offence to violate the above obligations.

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