When you ask folk on the street what the role of a Member of Parliament [MP] is, most will tell you what they do as opposed to what they ought to do. Many have a totally misconstrued view of the roles of the people they elect into positions of power; either out of ignorance or because they are duped into believing that once they elect, whatever is promised will come to pass. For example Kasirye (not real names) said his area MP promised to set up a number of schools but nothing had been done and his tenure in office was coming to an end.
Another said he was happy that his MP contributed towards his father’s funeral arrangements and undertook to provide for the welfare of the orphans, for that he got a thunderous applause, nods of appreciation and an hour of talk time during the ceremony.
This leads to the question; Do MPs do this out of ignorance? Are they aware that it’s not their mandate or do they just do it to hoodwink prospective voters? Whatever the answer is, MPs should not be providing any kind of social services to the electorate. At Least not according to the law. These according to the Constitution are their roles;
Article 79 of the constitution provides for the main function of Parliament, which is: to make laws for peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda. In addition, Parliament is expected to perform the roles of oversight and representation of the electorate.
Laws come to parliament in the form of Bills and are of two types. The first one is the government bill, it derives its name from its mover, who in this case is the government of Uganda through the responsible minister. The other is the private members’ bill which is introduced into a legislature by a legislator who is not acting on behalf of the executive. All bills must be brought to parliament for legislation. Article 79(1) of the Constitution states that the role of a Member of Parliament is to consider, refine, amend and vote on Bills.
MPs are obliged to relay concerns from their respective constituencies to the house, it’s what the representation role entails. MPs are required to participate in Committees, attend plenary sittings and any other Parliamentary activities. During plenary, Members present the views of their constituents through raising issues of national importance, presenting petitions (present grievances and seek solutions), lay reports and debate them.
Parliament participates in the budget process, starting with scrutinizing the Budget Framework Paper, this is followed by sectoral committees scrutinizing the respective ministerial policy statements. MPs can influence allocation of resources by proposing priority areas of funding, debating what should and shouldn’t be. According to the public Finance management Act 2015,Parliament should pass the National Budget by 31st May, it’s therefore the role of Parliament to expeditiously work through the budget in order to meet the deadline. .
It is also required of the members to follow up on implementation of Government programs in their constituencies. The oversight function of Parliament is effectively performed in many ways for example: Question time: MPs use question time in the House to bring the conduct of Government Officials under scrutiny, the 9th Parliament saw the dawn of Prime Minister’s question time; 30 minutes every Wednesday where members pose questions on peace, order, development and good governance to the Prime Minister.
On the oversight role in committees, Parliament appoints Committees necessary for the efficient discharge of its functions. These Committees are mandated to oversee government programs, ministries, departments and agencies. There are typically three types of committees, Standing committees whose membership lasts the entire life of parliament, sessional committees that are constituted at the beginning of every session of parliament and select committees that are instituted to investigate a particular issue and are disbanded soon after resolving the issue, for example the select committee on NSSF. An MP, through his/her participation in committee activities performs the oversight function.
Other roles include: moving a motion in the House to cause action to be taken by Parliament on the matter, a Member is able to bring to light the deficiencies of a given office, shortcomings of a given government project and demand more information or further clarification from the Executive on a matter before the House.
Participation on an issue – based caucus such as caucus on gender, children or climate change. Participation in political party activities such as caucus meetings and assignments given by the political party. Participation in any other activities as organized by the Speaker. Taking benchmark visits in other countries in order to improve on the way business is run in this Parliament.
These are basically the roles that a member of parliament should playaccording to the rule of law. The rest – they do according to their own will. If you are looking to make your MP accountable, now you know.