Do you know what your MP does? Their role ex­plained

By: Winnie Watera

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.