Parliamentary sittings adjourned over the absence of ministers & legislators

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, was yesterday forced to adjourn the plenary sitting that had lasted for barely one hour because many of the MPs and ministers, who were supposed to present reports and Bills, had not shown up.

Most of the business on yesterday’s Order Paper could not be handled because the committees responsible were not ready with reports, the chairpersons were absent and responsible ministers, who were supposed to respond, were unavailable.

Whereas the education ministry has four ministers, none of them was available to present a statement on the unexplained reduction of government scholarships for students in public universities for the 2019/2020 academic year.

Parliament could not also handle the second reading of the Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2015 because its mover, Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East MP) was absent. The acting Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Betty Bamukwatsa (Rukungiri Woman MP), told Parliament that Sseggona was sick.

The National Graduate Scheme Bill, which is a private member’s Bill, could not also be handled as scheduled because its mover, Waira Kyewalabye Majegere (Bunya East), was absent. The Government Chief Whip, Ruth Nankabirwa, had to stand in by presenting two Bills for the second reading.

Oulanyah asked Nankabirwa to read for the second time the Administration of the Judiciary Bill because of the relevant minister, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, was not present. Nankabirwa later also presented the Physical Planning (Amendment) Bill for the second reading on behalf of the lands minister Betty Amongi. None of the three ministers from lands (Amongi, Isaac Musumba and Dr. Chris Baryomunsi) was present.

Delays in House business

A few weeks ago, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, announced that Parliament’s business committee had resolved that every ministry will be required to be represented by at least one minister in the plenary sitting to avoid delays in handling business arising out of absence of ministers.

The House could not also handle the Institute of Parliamentary Studies Bill because Cecilia Atim Ogwal (Dokolo Woman), who is responsible for it, was absent. The adoption of the report of the committee on public accounts (commissions, statutory authorities and state enterprises (COSASE) on the audited accounts of selected statutory corporations could not be handled because both the committee chairperson, Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe South) and his deputy, Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East), were absent.

The presentation of the report on the visit to Kenya by the delegation from the committee on science and technology to study the genetic engineering regulatory mechanism could not also go ahead because the committee chairperson, Fred Bwino Kyakulaga (Kigulu North), was absent. Only about 60 MPs out of the over 457 legislators attended yesterday’s plenary.

Attend sessions

At the beginning of the fourth session of Parliament last month, Kadaga appealed to ministers and MPs to improve their commitment to parliamentary business so that by October, they have accomplished much of the pending business.

She argued that the target to have much work accomplished between June and October is premised on the understanding that after October, it will increasingly become difficult to get MPs and ministers in the House.

Many will be busy in their constituencies canvassing for support for re-election. Although the official campaign period for the next general elections has not yet kicked off, campaign-related activities have intensified, mostly fuelled by those who want to oust the incumbent MPs. According to the established pattern, between 50% and 70% MPs lose their bid to return to Parliament