Parliament blasts Ministers over absenteeism

Parliament has again rapped members of the Executive for continued absentia without prior notice during plenary sittings; a habit that it says stalls House business to the detriment of the people the two institutions serve.

The outrage was triggered during the December 1, plenary session during which several Ministers were supposed to present statements, move motions and respond to urgent questions raised by MPs but they were a no show in the House.

The Deputy Speaker Anita Among said she was disappointed that Parliament has severally complained about Ministers’ absentia without prior communication to the Speaker which slows the progress of work in the House.

The Minister for Presidency, Milly Babalanda was supposed to present a statement on the commemoration of World AIDS Day but instead delegated the Minister for Kampala Capital City and Metropolitan affairs, Minsa Kabanda to present the Statement on her behalf.

Among stopped Kabanda from making the statement on grounds that she is not the Minister for Presidency.

Efforts by the Third Deputy Prime Minister, Rukia Nakadama to inform Parliament that Kabanda was one of the Ministers from the Office of the President were futile because Among was not notified.

The Minister for Finance, Matia Kasaija was also supposed to move a motion for a resolution of Parliament to authorize the Government to borrow about $90m from the International Development Association of the World Bank Group to finance the Uganda Secondary School Education Expansion Project (USSEEP) but he instead delegated the Education Ministry to present the statement on his behalf as he was away in another meeting.

Among told the House that the Order Paper was uploaded in time to allow members to familiarize themselves and be able to attend to matters arising. She added that it’s the reason she keeps advising the Prime Minister to ensure that Ministers are in the House because their absence affects the smooth running of the plenary.

“The Order Paper was uploaded yesterday and the perception is that everyone had access to it. It is a total contempt of Parliament for you not to come and respond to what is on the Order Paper,” She said.

Kabanda committed to informing the Minister to be available the following day to move the motion on the floor of Parliament and allow for the Committee on Finance to also present their report.

Also absent to respond to Urgent questions on the recurrent fatalities from the bomb explosions in Nakaseke District, including one that claimed the lives of three children in Semuto, Nakaseke District on October 29, 2021, and the need for compensation of the affected families, was the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. Kahinda Otaffire.

The Leader of Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga tasked Nakadama to make a commitment that whenever Ministers are not around, they can ask the Speaker to suspend the House to allow them to do other business in committees instead of wasting time and taxpayers’ money.

“In a very worrying way we are losing time as Parliament and before we know it, this House is going to be half empty with members going in for games and the Holiday is coming in close. That is why I resisted the postponement of the statement on the COVID19 surge. The Front Bench is actually sleeping on duty and they want us to sleep with them on duty. I will not accept that. The Front bench should be notified that we are not going to join them in wasting time and taxpayers’ money,” said Mpuuga.

In the recent past Among was forced to prematurely suspend the House because several Ministers were not present to respond to matters that were being raised by MPs.

Among reiterated that there is an aspect of notification to the Speaker in the Rules of Procedure and that she was not notified. She said that the continued absentia of Ministers from the House was a lack of respect for Parliament and demanded that the Members respect each other.

Kadaga Institute of Parliamentary Studies to Lose Name, Autonomy in New Motion

Kilak North Member of Parliament Anthony Akol has been granted leave to present a private members bill that will reverse the autonomy of the Institute of Parliamentary Studies, recently named after the former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.

The institute will now revert to being a department under parliamentary service, with the same mandate of training Members of Parliament and staff. This means that it will now be audited together with other departments and be funded through the parliamentary commission, with no right to mobilize resources from outside Parliament.

The bill also seeks to ensure that the Deputy Speaker of Parliament becomes a Member of the Parliamentary Commission. Currently,  the Deputy Speaker only attends sessions of the commission as and when invited by the Speaker of Parliament. According to Akol, the changes are envisaged to reduce government spending on autonomous bodies.

Although the Institute of Parliamentary Studies was organized and administered as a directorate within the Parliamentary Service from its establishment in 2008 with backing from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, it was elevated in 2020, by an Act of Parliament as a semi-autonomous body.

Parliament also passed a resolution to name it the Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga Institute of Parliamentary Studies. Although now the Institute is called the Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga Institute, taking it back to become a department of Parliament would automatically drop the name.     

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal tabled the proposal to name the institute after Kadaga said she couldn’t comment on the matter because it is an administrative issue.

Opposition legislators boycott plenary over re-arrest of some MPs

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Annet Anita Among has urged members of parliament to allow the law to take its course in the matters of the arrest of two members of parliament.

This follows the opposition boycott of parliament sittings following the re-arresting of Makindye West MP Allan Sewanyana and Kawempe North MP Muhammad Ssegirinya enters day two.

The Magistrate’s court in Masaka yesterday remanded the two MP to Kigo prison until 13th October. 

The opposition led by their leader in Parliament Mathias Mpuuga stormed out of  Parliament stating that they will only return when their colleagues are set free. 

However, during the plenary today, Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Sekikubo questioned parliament’s decision to continue with sittings with only the members of Parliament from the ruling National Resistance  -NRM side and in the absence of the opposition. 

The quorum of Parliament of one-third of all Members of Parliament entitled to vote is not required at a time when Parliament is not voting on any question but going on with its regular duties.

Ssekikubo says that Government cannot sit and debate among themselves, saying the opposition exists as by the laws that govern Parliament and multiparty democracy. He says Parliament should not go on like everything is normal and debate with a one-sided house. 

Ssekikubo says the silence of the opposition is loud.   

Chris Baryomunsi, the Minister of Information Communication Technology and National guidance said that the house is fully constituted as the rules of procedure only talk about the number of MPs in the house and not the political party representation.   

Among in response informed parliament that she was not aware of any issue that was keeping the opposition away since the legislators who were being held were taken to a gazette facility after being arraigned in court.

Among also informed MPs that as Parliament, they will be ready to support the MPs if they need any help. She also said any one of the MPs is free to go and pay the MPs in incarceration a visit.

She says that Independent MPs, Army Representatives among others are in the house, and the house is fully constituted. 

She says as Parliament, they would not love any member to go through the challenges that the MPs are going through

NRM MPs to consult on proposed bail ban for capital offenses suspects

The ruling National Resistance Movement -NRM Parliamentary Caucus has resolved to carry out a two-week consultation on President Yoweri Museveni’s proposed ban of bail for capital offense suspects.

Museveni on Tuesday addressed the NRM legislators at Kololo Independence Grounds and according to the Government Chief Whip, Thomas Tayebwa, they had a candid discussion about the matter and they agreed to carry out further consultations about it.

He noted that the President informed the MPs that their meeting was meant for consultation purposes on granting of bail.

Tayebwa said that they are to meet the President again after two weeks and come up with a final decision on the matter.

President Museveni has in the past criticized the provision of bail to suspected capital offenders and on Monday, he clashed with Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny Dollo on the issue of granting bail to persons accused of capital offenses pending determination of their cases.

This occurred at the 4th Annual Memorial Lecture for the slain former Chief Justice Benedicto Kiwanuka held at the Judiciary Headquarters in Kampala where Museveni was the Chief Guest and Owiny-Dollo the host. It was organized under the theme “Administration of Justice in Uganda through the years”.

At the event, the Chief Justice said bail is a constitutional right that is supposed to be either granted or denied upon the discretion of the presiding judicial officer who should also exercise that discretion judiciously. 

Owiny-Dollo said a judicial officer cannot wake up from the good or wrong side of the bed and decide whether to grant or deny bail to an accused person because it’s a constitutional right the officer has to grant upon considering a number of circumstances for instance if one will abscond from trial or not among others. 

The Chief Justice added that however, he has heard President Museveni on a number of occasions having a different view on the right to bail, saying that the judicial officers should remember the oath they took to dispense justice without fear or favor and independently. 

But Museveni said that the concept of dispensing justice has to be harmonized, challenging the judicial officers to go and read the Constitutional Commission proceedings where he says the majority of the people of Uganda didn’t want bail for capital offenses. But the former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki who headed the Commission left it to the discretion of the judicial officers, which the president is opposed to.

According to Museveni who spoke in a tough manner on the matter, he said granting bail is a provocation that will not be accepted. He gave examples of people who were killed by mob justice in Arua and in Gomba, saying that when courts give bail on capital offenses, societies become hopeless and start killing people who are charged with such crimes.

The President has severally in the past criticized the issue of granting bail. On Wednesday last week, while speaking at the swearing-in of new judges at State House Entebbe, Museveni insisted that bail is not a constitutional right.

Amos Okot, Agago North MP questioned why a suspect would be denied a constitutional right of bail.

William Museveni, the Buwekula South MP said that the Constitution is clear about bail and that there is no need for any amendment.

David Kabanda, the Kasambya County MP said that they subjected the matter to a discussion and that he will go ahead and oppose the proposal by the President.

Government suspends creation of new administrative units

Government of Uganda has indefinitely suspended the creation of new administrative units such as districts and sub-counties.

Minister of local government Hon. Raphael Magyezi the new structures have widened the funding gaps of lower local governments and the government is currently looking for money to fund the recently created districts and cities.

He further said that  “we are looking for money to finance the 720 sub-counties, which we recently created and besides, we are just from the election.”

The Committee on defence questions army officials over diversion of 21 billion

The defence Committee on 6th April 2021 questioned army officials including minister of defence and veteran affairs Mr. Adolf Mwesigye.

The diverted funds were part of the current budget that was approved by Parliament.

The Committee raised concerns that instead of repairing the three aircraft belonging to Uganda air Cargo corporation that is under the army, the army leadership paid annual aircraft insurance, trained eight personnel, participated in UPDF/Amisom troop rotation in Somalia and procured spares for one aircraft.

Return the ipads or pay 700,000 shillings

Parliament has given all legislators upto the end of this month (30th April 2021) to return the ipads that Parliament had given them to facilitate their work.

Any MP who does not comply will end up paying between 550,000 to 700,000 shillings depending on the ipad he or she received.

This is according to a letter written by the Clerk to Parliament Ms. Jane Kibirige addressed to all Mps on the 31st of March 2021.

The letter clearly states that all the iPads that were given to MPs are property of the government of Uganda and must therefore be returned before the end of their term in May.

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