New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Parliament Returns to a Full Schedule

Kampala — Parliament returns from its Christmas break today to handle a clogged legislative program, thus drawing curtains on a recess that has been marked by political battle of wills between the executive and legislature over a botched attempt by some legislators to recall the House.

Chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, the Business Committee was on Monday locked in a marathon meeting to map the legislative agenda.

The Business Committee is comprised of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Leader of Government Business, Leader of the Opposition, Government Chief Whip, Opposition Whip, other party whips, and two independent MPs.

Documents seen by this reporter point to a hectic last part of the financial year, with 22 government-sponsored Bills and three private member's Bills at different stages of formulation earmarked for handling.

Among the pending pieces of legislation include the Public Order Management Bill, the Marriage and Divorce Bill, the Anti-Pornography Bill, the Anti-Money laundering Bill and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009.

The House broke off for Christmas without passing the anti-gay Bill and the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee is expected to table the Bill for the third reading before its rejected or passed by the House.

Government asked for more time to enable consultations on some clauses of the Public Order Management Bill that the civil society and human rights groups had deemed an attempt to trammel legitimate political opposition activities.

The list of lined up Bills is also conspicuous for its absence of John Ssibwa's (Makindye East) Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2012, despite ministry of finance issuing him with a certificate of financial implication.

The Bill seeks to provide for seizure and forfeiture of wealth of all those implicated in corruption.

The House is also chocking with petitions from different people and interest groups, concluding only three of the 63 so far received.

Also 47 pending questions from different legislators will require answers from respective sector ministers. Only 13 oral questions have been answered.

The House is expected to discuss a host of committee reports ranging from the petition on Pioneer Easy Busy operations to alleged mismanagement of the electricity sub sector.

Another of the eagerly anticipated reports for debate is the one of Public Accounts Committee on the alleged colossal theft of donor funds in the office of the Prime Minister.

According to committee vice chairperson, Paul Mwiru, the report will be ready within a month, citing the uncertainty of former Principal Accountant, Godfrey Kazinda's expected interface with the committee as reason for the delay.

Already in its second session, the ninth parliament has found lack of quorum an intractable problem, regularly stalling committee work and plenary sessions where one third of MPs are required to vote on any question or bill.

During last year's oil debate, Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah adjourned the House more than ounce over lack of quorum, highlighting the extent of the problem.

Kadaga promised to crack the whip on MPs who chronically dodge parliamentary business, ordering committee chairmen to furnish her with weekly reports of MPs' attendance.

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