Ab­sen­teeism hand­cuffs Par­lia­men­t’s work and no one cares

By: Jacky Kemigisa

As  2016 nears, many mem­bers of Par­lia­ment will not set­tle for the fear that one civil ser­vant or pri­vate in­di­vid­ual could be ‘eye­ing’ their seat in the au­gust house. The nu­mer­ous me­dia re­ports on ab­sen­teeism in Par­lia­ment have not helped to in­crease the num­ber of MPs pre­sent in the house; they have con­tin­u­ously fallen on deaf ears.

Speaker Kadaga in a bid to in­crease the house at­ten­dance,  in­formed the house of the new elec­tronic vot­ing sys­tem and the cam­eras in Par­lia­ment, but MPs do not seem both­ered at all.

“We have in­tro­duced the elec­tronic sys­tem in Par­lia­ment, mem­bers will now use it to vote, this sys­tem will also help de­tect the at­ten­dance of mem­ber, It will re­quire you to clock in and clock out so that we know whether you ar­rived at 3pm and left at 3:05pm,” said Speaker Kadaga

The elec­tronic sys­tem, to­gether with CCTV cam­eras cost Ugx 28 bil­lion of the Ugan­dan tax­pay­ers’ money. Many would have ex­pected a boost in the at­ten­dance in par­lia­ment, but the MPs’ num­bers have still not in­creased.

This snail pace per­for­mance of the 9th Par­lia­ment is in con­trast to its first year, in 2011, when it was praised as the most as­sertive of all other par­lia­ments. But now that en­thu­si­asm seems to have evap­o­rated.

“I have noted with con­cern the is­sue of at­ten­dance, many mem­bers of par­lia­ment do not at­tend and if they do, they leave be­fore the ple­nary ses­sion is over and some come to Par­lia­ment only to re­main in their of­fices,” said Deputy Speaker Oulanyah

Oulanyah fur­ther ques­tioned min­is­ter’s at­ten­dance as he called on to the prime min­is­ter to or­ga­nize his min­is­ters and make sure they at­tend ple­nary with­out fail.

The deputy speaker ex­pressed his frus­tra­tion for par­lia­ment could not dis­cuss the Trade Li­cens­ing bill due to lack of quo­rum, there were 101 MPs’ pre­sent in the house out of the 385 Mps’. The bill ap­peared on the or­der pa­per for two days and on every oc­ca­sion, it could not be han­dled due to lack of quo­rum.

Ow­ing to ab­sen­teeism, the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the House is low, Bills are not passed in time. Par­lia­ment has also been forced to de­bate back­log re­ports of 2010,2012 that have been over­taken by events.

Par­lia­men­t’s rules of pro­ce­dure Part6 “ Leave of Ab­sence” of  sub rule 7, gives the Speaker pow­ers to send a warn­ing to MPs that are ab­sent with­out the speak­er’s per­mis­sion, sub rule 8 al­lows the speaker to de­fer the mat­ter to par­lia­men­t’s com­mit­tee on rules, Priv­i­leges and Dis­ci­pline.

It should be noted that no MPs who do not at­tend ple­nary have been for­warded to the dis­ci­pli­nary com­mit­tee apart from Kipoi Nsub­uga Bubulo West MP who has been la­belled  a thief be­fore.

Many mem­bers of Par­lia­ment blame cab­i­net min­is­ters for fail­ing to at­tend ple­nary, there­fore hin­der­ing the work of Par­lia­ment. “If the min­is­ters do not want to at­tend ple­nary, then we should con­tinue with­out their pres­ence for Par­lia­ment needs to han­dle is­sues on be­half of the na­tion”  said Op­po­si­tion Chief Ce­cilia Og­wal.

Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment en­joy sub­stan­tial fi­nan­cial pack­ages that they re­ceive in the form of al­lowances, in­clud­ing mileage fa­cil­i­ta­tion of 4.5 mil­lion Ugan­dan shillings, con­stituency fa­cil­i­ta­tion of 3.2 mil­lion shillings, and a monthly salary of 2.6 mil­lion shillings – among other sit­ting al­lowances which to­gether amount to be­tween 15 and 20 mil­lion shillings.

You would think with this sys­tem bought by tax­pay­ers money would en­dear the Mps to be se­ri­ous about their busi­ness – not so much.