Uganda: 9th Parliament: three years later

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At the end of its third year, Uganda’s 9th Parliaments resembles a mixed bag, with statistics it says are worthy, amidst growing public criticism of its record.

A review of official parliamentary records shows that over the last three years, Parliament passed 32 Bills against a consolidated figure of 98 Bills presented, rejected one Bill, and shelved the controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill, 2009.

Passed controversial Bills
Of the 32 Bills passed, at least five attracted stern criticism, some locally and others internationally.

They include the Public Order Management Bill, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill, 2012. Others are the HIV/AIDs Prevention and Control Bill, and the Anti-Pornography Bill.

Records show that MPs passed nine Bills in the first session, nine in the second and 14 in the just-ended session. Apart from the Bills passed, MPs also handled petitions, committee reports and motions. Seven oral questions were responded to during the first session and four in the second session.

In the third session, the slot for oral questions morphed into the Prime Minister’s Question Time, where MPs ask the prime minister questions of their choice and he answers them on the floor. The records also show that 10 committee reports were presented in the first session, 27 in the second and 28 in the third session.

In all, 100 motions have been passed in the three years.

Parliament handled eight petitions in the first session, 21 in the second and at least 14 in the third.

Bills passed in first session

05/09/11: The Excise Tariff (amendment) Bill, 2011
06/09/11: the Finance Bill, 2011
06/09/11: the Finance (Amendment) No. 2 Bill, 2011
07/09/11: The Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2011
07/09/11: The Stamps (Amendment) Bill, 2011
09/09/11: The Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2011
14/09/11: The Supplementary Appropriations Bill, 2011
15/09/11: the Appropriations Bill, 2011
22/03/12: the Companies Bill, 2009

Bills passed in second session

07/08/12: the National council for older persons Bill, 2010
29/08/12: the Finance Act 2006 (amendment) Bill, 2012
29/08/12: The Income tax (Amendment) Bill, 2012
05/09/12: The Uganda Communications Regulatory Authority Bill, 2012
30/08/12: The Excise Tariff (Amendment) Bill, 2012
30/08/12: The Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2012
30/08/12: The East African Excise Management (Amendment) Bill, 2012
11/09/12: The Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2012
30/11/12: The Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production Bill, 2012

Bills passed in 3rd session

10/07/13: The Anti-Money Laundering Bill, 2009
23/07/13: The National Population Council Bill, 2011
21/08/13: The Industrial Property Bill, 2009
06/08/13: The Public Order Management Bill, 2011
18/09/13: The Finance Bill, 2013
18/09/13: The Excise Management (Amendment) Bill, 2013
09/09/13: The Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2013
09/09/13: The Excise Tariff (Amendment) Bill, 2013
09/09/13: The Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2013
09/09/13: The Supplementary Appropriations Bill, 2013

20/09/13: The Appropriations Bill, 2013
12/12/13: The Higher Education Financing Bill, 2013
05/12/13: The Free Zones Bill, 2012
18/12/13: The Uganda National Commission for UNESCO Bill, 2012
19/12/13: The Anti-Pornography Bill, 2011
19/12/13: The Chattels Securities Bill, 2009
20/12/13: The Plant Varieties Protection Bill, 2010
20/12/13: The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2010
13/05/14: the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill, 2010

Bills rejected

01/04/14: The Implementation of Government Assurances Bill, 2008

What people say
Despite receiving rave reviews in its first year, largely due to its outspokenness, this parliament finds itself the subject of some sharp criticism. Some have described it as a “club” of elites looking to get themselves their share of public funds instead of ensuring the best gains for the populace.

“The ninth parliament is equally a disappointment like any other parliaments,” said Julius Lebo, a Makerere University lecturer.

Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, echoes the same sentiments.

“People had higher expectations and they [Parliament] set the bar high but eventually as time went on, we are seeing the usual things of the previous parliaments,” Kagaba said in a recent interview.

“Although they pledged to be transparent, they locked the media out when they were discussing their entitlements and they eventually agreed to increase them.
“Quantitatively, they have performed poorly because the number of laws passed is relatively low, which is a negative on their side.”

Faulted on quorum
Parliament has occasionally, suffered a lack of quorum largely due to the absenteeism of MPs. This is something that Kagaba finds unacceptable.

“They come and sign, then they are nowhere to be seen when it comes to parliamentary work,” she said. “That means that we have leaders who are money-minded who are businessmen and women.”

Rubber stamp
Others think the House, which started brightly, has failed to assert its independence. They say it has surrendered its authority to the NRM caucus, which enjoys a majority in the house. There have only been a few MPs, Kagaba says, who have stood up for the interest of the taxpayers.

Lebo seems to agree.

“The power of the caucus has usurped the roles of Parliament and it is a group of rubber stampers.” Lebo said. “As far as representing the issues of people is concerned, this parliament is a failure.”

Noble duty
However, Helen Kawesa, the public relations manager of Parliament, finds this criticism unwarranted.

“It’s premature to judge this Parliament because this is the third year; we still have two years to make five years,” Kawesa told The Observer recently.

She said Parliament was doing its best, although Ugandans were free to express their “opinions” – including on the power of the ruling party caucus.

“This is a multi-party parliament. There should be caucuses for members to adopt common positions while on the floor; it is true that most of the debating is done there and people should accept that a caucus is an established organ of parliament.”

Key events
In three years, the ninth parliament has had its fair share of drama. October 10-11, 2011: Parliament held a special session to pass 11 controversial resolutions including one that sought to have Premier Amama Mbabazi, and Ministers Sam Kutesa and Hilary Onek suspended, pending a probe into allegations of oil-related.

November 28, 2012: Speaker Kadaga suspends House for one week pending a report by the house committee on rules, discipline and privileges that investigated MPs accused of rowdy behaviour.

December 2012: former Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda’s body made history by being taken twice to Parliament to be eulogized – after her controversial death that same month.

May 2, 2013: Kadaga disagrees with NRM and rules to keep the four expelled NRM rebel MPs in Parliament
August 1, 2013: deputy speaker Oulanyah suspends four MPs for misconduct
October 2, 2013: Oulanyah orders the sergeant-at-arms to physically eject Kyadondo East MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda from the chambers.
October 8 2013: Oulanyah relents and allows the suspended MPs back into the House after “apologizing on their behalf”.
February 2014: Kadaga heeds a court order to expel rebel MPs from Parliament.

SOURCE: Uganda Observer, June 16th 2014: