Parliament has passed the Administration of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2021, to allow the Deputy Speaker an autonomous seat at the Parliamentary Commission including chairing meetings in their own right, in the absence of the Speaker.
Unlike the past where the Deputy Speaker would only participate in Parliamentary Commission meetings and activities out of the Speaker’s benevolence, the private member’s Bill tabled by Kilak North MP, Anthony Akol, wants the office of the Deputy Speaker detached from the Speaker when dealing with the Commission.
With the Deputy Speaker with a seat at the table, this means that both the Speaker and his/her Deputy can both attend the Parliament Commission meetings and have individual veto powers.
Akol last week, sought leave of Parliament to table the Administration of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that among others, also seeks to scrap the Institute of Parliamentary Studies Act, 2021 and rename the Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga Institute of Parliamentary Studies (RAKIPS).
The law wants to roll back the semi-autonomous status as a Government agency that the institute had adopted and drop former Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s name from the institute.
The Amendment has also repealed the Institute of Parliamentary Studies Act, 2020 and reversed the institute’s autonomy, absorbing its staff back to the Parliamentary Service, to align the Act with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority Act, 2003.
In a Plenary sitting chaired by Deputy Speaker Anita Among, Akol, said the law is meant to streamline administrative roles at Parliament by strengthening the office of the Deputy Speaker and making RAKIPS more accountable to the Clerk to Parliament.
When the Tororo District Woman MP Sarah Opendi took to the floor she successfully moved a motion for the expeditious handling of the Bill due to the nature of its urgency.
She proposed suspension of Rule 128 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament that require the proposed piece of legislation to first go before a Committee of Parliament for 45 days for scrutiny.
Opendi argued that since the bill was clear, it needn’t go through the normal bill making process.
The Ndorwa East MP, Wilfred Niwagaba, moved the house to proceed to the second reading of the Bill, with no further debate. This was adopted and the House moved to the committee of the whole House to pass the Bill.
However, before the bill was passed the Minister of state for trade, industry and cooperatives, David Bahati demanded reassurance that the staff employed at the Institute would not lose their jobs.
In response, Among assured the House that no one would lose their job at RAKIPS, but rather they would be taken up by the Parliamentary service commission.
With not much debate, the House considered the bill clause by clause and thereafter the Bill was passed.
The Leader of Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga, cautioned members from the ruling NRM party against the “appetite” of suspending the rules on the 45 days for the respective committee to scrutinize the law.
Whereas the passing of the Administration of Parliament (Amendment) Bill, 2021, that now awaits the President’s assent to become law was peculiar, Mpuuga said if the NRM with the majority turns into a habit the practice bending rules such as rule 128 to fast track Bills they are interested in, the opposition will not hesitate opposing them.