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Ever, wonder why Bills take long before assent? Here is why

Published 2 years ago -


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The process of getting laws assented to by the President takes awhile.

According to Article 91(1) of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda, the power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercised through bills passed by Parliament and assented to by the President.

At a point where a bill is passed by Parliament, bill enthusiasts can’t hide their contentment. And for a moment they forget the “must be assented to by President Part.” Technically the President needs to append his signature for a bill to become law.

This is provided for by Article 91(2) which stipulates that a bill passed by Parliament shall, as soon as possible, be presented to the President for assent. Article 91(3) subsequently stipulates that the president may, as soon as possible after the presentation to him of a Bill for assent, assent to bill or return the bill, reconsider the Bill or any specified provisions thereof and when a Bill is so returned, the House shall reconsider the Bill accordingly, and if the Bill is passed again by the Houses with or without amendment and presented to the President for assent, the President shall not withhold assent there from.

A Bill that has been assented to and signed by the President becomes an Act of Parliament and must be published shortly thereafter in the Gazette. An Act takes effect (becomes binding on everyone) when it is published in the Gazette or on a date determined in terms of the Act.

Speaking from an enthusiast’s point of view, the period of assent can be quite long sometimes. This can be on the part of Parliament or that of the President, either way it spins alot of criticism. Today we look at some of the reasons that would delay the process of assenting to bills.

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Political urgency of the bill sometimes determines how long it will take before assent. What Parliament and the President term as urgent sometimes differ, the on-going political circumstances at the time normally defines what is. Also whether the bill will foster the required agenda. The president recently assented to three electoral bills[1] on the 24th of August this year and one wonders what the other bills sitting at his desk were waiting for. The election period is already upon us thus rendering the bills politically urgent.

According to the then Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi, “Some of the laws are passed based on foreign interests and others out of anxiety and excitement.[2]  This is common especially when it comes to Private Members’ Bills. This begs for scrutiny by the President and his legal team, It sometimes takes a while to study and consult with various stakeholders. Laws have have far-reaching consequences in the country and the President in his role of protecting Ugandans who elected him must exercise due diligence on the bills.”

The clerk at the time of the bill also plays a huge role in the time lag,  the attention span is really important because many changes happen on the floor of Parliament, in some cases one may miss something and has to get either the parliament office or wait for the Hansard to make the changes.

When an act is passed by Parliament, it is forwarded to Parliament’s department of Legal and Legislative Affairs for editing and inclusion of amendments endorsed by Parliament. At this stage, the time varies; the bill may about a week to a month or more at this stage, depending on its size before it is transferred to the president.

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Between 2006 and 2013, the President assented to 47 bills days longer than the constitutionally mandated 30 days. Whether or not there are legal repercussions is another story, however in case you wonder why that bill you’re looking forward to doesn’t making to the gazette within the expected time, it probably one of those reasons above.

[1] National Women’s Council (Amendment) Bill, 2015, National Youth Council (Amendment) Bill, 2015 and National Council for Disabilities (Amendment) Bill, 2015.

[2] According to the Observer

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