Parliament business has again come to a standstill as the entire front bench of Ministers were on Thursday nowhere in the chambers to respond to pertinent matters of national importance.
The Ministers absenteeism irked Deputy Speaker, Anita Among, on June 19, 2021, forcing her to prematurely adjourn the House just minutes into the plenary session.
Absenteeism especially on the side of the Executive which is charged with presenting Business for debate to the House has long been a subject of contention that triggered change of Cabinet meetings from Thursday to Monday and the Prime Ministers Question Time moved from Monday to Thursday during the 10th Parliament.
In addition to generating the Legislative agenda, the Executive is also responsible for presenting statements and responding to questions from the Legislature, all of which is pivotal to fueling Parliament Business.
The MPs expressed concern that there was no one from the Government side to respond to matters raised by them, effectively meaning there was no need to continue with the plenary session.
Rule 42 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure allows MPs to question the Ministers relating to public affairs vested in respective dockets, proceedings pending in Parliament or any matter of administration for which the Ministers are charged with.
Before Among adjourned the plenary session, Bukomansimbi District Woman MP, Veronica Nanyondo had raised a matter of machete-wielding gangs terrorizing her constituency. This went unanswered due to the absence of Ministers.
Attempts by the Government Chief Whip, Thomas Tayebwa to convince the MPs that he would present the matters raised by members for response and action by the respective Ministers were unsuccessful.
“I will relay this matter to the security minister who will coordinate with other agencies so that they link up with honorable members and then resolve the matters,” he said.
The House was expected to discuss several issues including reports from the public service ministry on the merger of various Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, among others.
Bukooli Central MP, Solomon Silwany told Parliament that he had seen the ministers within the precincts of Parliament but was surprised that they were not in the House.
Kalungu West MP, Joseph Ssewungu wondered why the ministers had skipped plenary sitting yet they have police escort cars to clear their way to wherever they have to go.
Busia Municipality MP, Godfrey Macho noted that it was unfortunate that there were no ministers present for the sitting yet Uganda is one of the countries with the highest number of Ministers in the World.
Ministers absenteeism during Plenary Session was one of the key challenges that the 10th Parliament faced hence affecting its performance. The former Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, on several occasions, was forced to adjourn the House and differ Business before the House due to Minister’s absenteeism.
Tayebwa at the start of the 11th Parliament promised to ensure that all ministers attend House sittings but the vice continues unabated.
Among recalled when the Ministers were being vetted, the Appointments Committee of Parliament cautioned them against absenteeism and they assured the Committee of their commitment to attend to Parliament Business.
“Members I want to tell you that the issues being raised are matters of life. If people are being killed and we don’t have a minister to respond and you have the government chief whip here all the time coming to apologize, I am not sure whether that is what he is supposed to do,” said Among.