Thursday March 13 2014

Time up for special interest in House

The pettiness with which some of this country’s citizens approach our politics continues to be exasperating. A latest example of this small-minded tendency was brought out in all its shady glory when yet another ‘interest group’ turned up in Parliament and petitioned to have seats allocated to them.

Until their sudden appearance at Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s door on Tuesday, little had previously been heard of the so-called ‘Uganda Association of Uneducated Persons’. They seem to have appeared out of the blue like others before them. They should be ignored. Uganda is unable to afford another layer added onto the already impossibly high cost of public administration.

In Parliament alone, the annual wage bill for the 370-plus MPs runs into the billions. It gets worse when you reflect on the long list of regime flunkeys moonlighting as district commissioners, deputy commissioners, unelected councillors, intelligence officers or pseudo-security agents. Money expended on them would be more profitably spent in improving the poor quality of education.
And when you consider that the expanded 9th Parliament is a shadow of its predecessor, which was itself a poor imitation of the vibrant 6th and 7th Parliaments, one inevitably arrives at the conclusion that we are victims of over-representation: One consequence of which is the low quality of debate prevalent today.

Some attribute this retrogression to the flooding of the chambers with individuals who would be better off doing less demanding jobs.
But the problem actually derives from the exuberance and self-interest which informed the inclusion of Article 78(1) b,c in the 1995 Constitution under the guise of expanding the ‘broad base’ of government. The article provides for representation of special interest groups to wit; the army, youth, women and persons with disabilities in the House.

Their inclusion and number, which is more than half the 238 constituency representatives, is subject to review every five years. Regrettably, though, to-date any attempt to question their presence has been firmly resisted. Critics drily observe that the resistance is down to the fact that they are in Parliament to do the bidding of the incumbent leadership, which returns the favour by assuring their continued dubious existence.
Today, we should be whittling down their numbers instead of tolerating fresh petitions for more inclusions.