How long would it take for 34 million people to meet, carry out public hearings, have bench-marking trips probably in other countries, write reports, and discuss the provisions of a document, say 200 pages, word for word? That would probably take years since majority of them would want to have a contribution, and it would definitely be very expensive and difficult to control such a gathering.
The framers of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda foresaw the difficulty it would entail to come up with a detailed final product, and prescribed that there shall be a Parliament, which is a composed of elected representatives of constituencies, woman representatives, youth, army, workers, persons with disabilities, and other groups as parliament shall determine.
However, Parliament itself gets inundated with work that to have results, it has got to be well-organized. To attain this therefore, it further devolves itself into smaller committees so that it can move faster. According to the 1995 Constitution, under Art 90, Parliament is mandated to appoint committees necessary for the efficient discharge of its functions, and to prescribe the powers, composition and functions of the committees through the Rules of Procedure.
With reference to PART XX, XXIV, XXV, XXVI and XXVII of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, the different types of committees that can be established by Parliament include Standing, Sectoral, Select and Ad Hoc Committees. These are different in the nature of their composition, have different functions and mandate, and time frame within which to carry out their work.
Whenever the House sits to to consider a Bill at second reading, the Speaker leaves the Chair without putting any question and the House then resolves itself into a Committee of the Whole House. as set out in PART XX of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament. Committee of the Whole House refers to Committee composed of the whole body of Members of Parliament, under the chairmanship of the Speaker.
There are thirteen (13) Standing Committees, established under Rule 146 and have a tenure of two and a half years. These include among others, the Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline, the Business Committee, Committee on National Economy, Appointments Committee, and Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises. Except as stipulated in the Rules of Procedures of Parliament in respect of Business Committee and Budget Committee, a member may not be a member of more than one Standing Committee.
Membership to the Standing Committees emanates from the Members of Parliament, whereby parties represented in Parliament designate through their Whips, in a proportional nature, whereas the Independent MPs apply to the Clerk to Parliament to join a committee of their choice.
For Sectoral Committees established under rule 175, the membership is also designated by part Whips at the beginning of every session of Parliament, on the basis of Party or Organisation representation in Parliament, putting into consideration the interests of the Independent MPs who shall also apply to the Clerk to Parliament to join committees of their choice.
There are fifteen (15) Sectoral Committees provided for under rule 175 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, and these include committees on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries; Tourism, trade and Industry; Health; Education and Sports; Physical Infrastructure; Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, among others. These committees shall consist of not less than fifteen (15) members and no more than thirty (30) members.
The Sectoral Committees are mandated to carry out the functions of examining and commenting on the policies matters affecting the ministries they cover, to initiate or evaluate action programmes of those Ministries and Sectors and to make appropriate recommendations on them, examine critically Government recurrent and capital budget estimates and make recommendations on them for general debate in the House, examine Bills brought by Government before the House among others.
The other form of Committee set up in Parliament is the Select Committees, established in accordance with the provisions of rule 178, upon a motion moved after notice, nominated by the Business Committee, for the consideration of such matters the House may refer to the Committee. Such a committee shall consist of at least five (5) members, designated by party Whips on the basis of proportional party representation and taking into consideration the interests of independent members of Parliament.
Finally, the Ad Hoc Committees are the other committees appointed by the House on the advice of the Business Committee, to investigate any matter of public importance that does not come under the jurisdiction of any Standing or Sectoral Committee, or that has not been dealt with by a Select Committee.
The general functions of the Committees of Parliament in addition to their specific functions under the rules include discussing and making recommendations on Bills laid before Parliament, to initiate any Bills within their areas of competence, to assess and valuate activities of Government and other bodies, carry out relevant research and to report to Parliament their findings. All these are geared towards making easy, speedy and efficient the work of Parliament.
Through the committees, the work load and the pressure on the whole House is reduced, since the committees carry out investigations on behalf of the House, they make such necessary travels, and thereafter come up with a report and (where necessary) a minority report. These help to provide guidance to the House, on which angles the debates should take, and when it is on Bills, which clauses are relevant. Sometimes, the recommendations by the committees are adopted and considered by the Parliament for action.
Look out for the operation of Committees in the next edition. For more information on the examples of Committees and the Members there-under, browse here.