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.