Few MPs attend committee meetings, says Parliament report

Thursday August 14 2014

A handful of MPs attend a session in Parliament last

A handful of MPs attend a session in Parliament last month. A report shows that few MPs attend committee meetings. PHOTO BY GEOFREY SSERUYANGE 

By Isaac Imaka

PARLIAMENT-Data forms compiled by House authorities have revealed that many MPs attended less than 10 meetings out of an expected average of at least 60 sittings held for both sessional and standing committees over a seven month period.

Officials were unwilling to speak about the tracking of MPs’ activity last evening, but well-placed sources in the Office of the Clerk told Daily Monitor that all clerk assistants received instructions to submit details of their quarterly committee sittings for the time under review. This information has now been fed into the Committee Activity Database report.

“We are now compiling from January 2014 to-date but most clerks are slow in submitting otherwise everything would be done by now,” one source familiar with the new practice said.

The activity database reveals how many times each committee sat between July 2013 and January 2014 and captures the sittings each committee member attended. It also shows the number of trips, both inland and abroad, each committee member took.
Deputy Clerk (Parliamentary Services) Paul Wabwire—under whose docket committees fall -- referred this newspaper to the Office of the Speaker when contacted.

But the assistant media relations director in the Speaker’s office, Ms Ranny Ismail, observed that MPs have repeatedly been warned over absenteeism by Ms Rebecca Kadaga.

‘The Speaker has severally complained about members missing committee and plenary sessions because it negatively affects the performance of the institution,” she said. “In most of her communications to the House, the Speaker has always called upon members to ensure that they attend the House.”

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Months ago, Speaker Kadaga warned that she would get to grips with the rampant truancy she blamed for delays in finishing House business.

Members of Parliament are supposed to belong to two committees: one Sessional and the other Standing. Sessional committees are constituted at every beginning of a session while Standing committees last for two and half years. Attending a committee attracts an allowance of Shs50,000 per sitting.
During the period under review, Mr Gilbert Bukenya (Busiro North, NRM) was assigned to sit on the Agriculture committee and the HIV committee. Together, the two committees had 28 meetings. The former vice president did not attend any.

Daily Monitor was not able to speak to all MPs but Mr Peter Omolo (Soroti County, FDC) who was assigned to the Presidential Affairs and Government Assurances committees said he does not appear at Parliament because he is indisposed. Of the 27 meetings the two committees held, he did not attend any.

“I have been sick for the last two years and the Speaker is aware,” he said. “Even as we speak I am home going for treatment.”

Ms Susan Namaganda (Bukomansimbi, DP) missed 41 meetings organised by the Agriculture and Science and Technology committees. She missed all of the 25 for agriculture and only attended four of the 20 organised by science and technology.

The member for Arua Municipality, Martin Drito (NRM), attended five of the 56 Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meetings, and three of 16 Gender committee meetings. His colleague, Christine Bako (Arua Woman, FDC) attended nine out of 56 PAC meetings and two out of 34 Defence and Internal Affairs committee meetings.

Kyankwanzi woman MP, Anna Maria Nankabirwa (NRM) is recorded as having attended three out of 17 Budget committee meetings and eight out of 18 Natural Resources committee meetings.

Yesterday she said: “If you help yourself to recall, when Parliament went into debating the energy ad hoc report, I was one of the key players. I have not missed in any important bill being passed”
“I am now on another special committee investigating NSSF. If committees are sitting and I am on a time-bound assignment … you cannot be in all committees at the same time.”

During the period, Bukonjo East member, Bwambale Bihande (FDC) dodged 64 meetings while a member on the Public Accounts and Natural Resources committees. He never attended even one of the 19 Natural Resources committee meetings but managed 11 out of 56 PAC meetings. Mr Bihande now sits on the Human Rights and Natural Resources committees.

Rwampara’s Vincent Mujuni Kyamadidi (NRM) attended none of the 19 Natural Resources meetings, and only 10 of the 56 PAC meetings.

Patrick Nsanja (Ntenjeru South, Indep) missed all of the 19 Presidential Affairs committee meetings and made it to one Business Committee meeting.

“There was a time I was away participating in a football tournament that’s why I missed the meetings, he said. “But generally speaking there is too much pressure in the committee and most members are spending more time in their constituencies because elections are just around the corner,” he said yesterday.

Former Parliamentary Commissioner, Emmanuel Dombo (Bunyole East, NRM) never attended any of the 41 National Economy committee meetings and only went for two out of the 29 Physical Infrastructure Committee sittings.

Sam Lyomoki (NRM Workers) attended one in 34 Defence and Internal Affairs meetings and zero out of the 17 Rules and Privileges committee meetings.
Similarly, the database shows that during his time as a member of the Local Government Accountability committee, Mr Micheal Ayepa (NRM Labwor) attended zero of the 28 committee meetings and only 15 of the 48 Finance Committee meetings.

He was moved from Local Government Accountability to Budgeting in the recent committee shuffles.
According to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, absenteeism can attract punishment ranging from naming to suspension.

For the last two weeks, Parliament has been on the spot after the Constitutional Court quashed the Anti-Homosexuality Act because it was passed without quorum.

Committees are an integral part of the legislative process where the biggest volume of parliamentary work is done as far as the oversight and representation roles are concerned.

iimaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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