How Bills passed by MPs in 2019 will affect you in the New Year

Monday January 13 2020
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Plenary. Prime Minster Ruhakana Rugunda addresses MPs last year. Photo by Eric Dominic Bukenya

On December 18 last year, MPs went on end of year recess for at least a month in a period where many are seeking reelection in the 2021 General Election.

Only Mr Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri County, FDC) has declared he will not contest for the position again.

By the time the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, announced the recess, the number of MPs attending plenary and committees sessions had significantly dwindled.

The House broke off without approving the 15 proposed cities after twice lacking a quorum of at least 223 MPs to be able to take a vote on the motion brought by the then Local Government minister, Col Tom Butime.

Established under Article 77 of the Constitution, Parliament is the legislative arm of government, and its major function, according to Article 79, is to make laws. The other roles are oversight, budgeting and representation.

However, over the years, the lawmakers have come under sharp criticism for dodging plenary.
Citizens have also raised queries over the quality of representation and governance.

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According to a report on the performance of parliamentary committees released in September last year, more than 100 MPs were named as perpetual absentees between July 2017 and May 2018, the second year of the 10th Parliament.

There were 815 meetings split between standing and sectoral committees during the period. At least 37 of these missed meetings scheduled all year through.

According to a 2017 Sauti za Wanachi survey issued by Twaweza, an NGO, 65 per cent of the citizens think government is so big and bureaucratic that it is very difficult for any one to have any impact on what happens.

The report also indicated that 61 per cent say people can improve the country’s economy through responsible action, while 57 per cent said with sufficient effort, corruption can be eliminated.
Yet the legislators are supposed to represent their constituents on such matters.

However, last year, Parliament processed and passed 22 Bills, processed 11 loan requests by government, received 54 ministerial statements, 322 response to urgent questions, and considered 46 committee reports.

It also hosted two international events, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference from September 22 to 29, and the recently concluded East African Parliamentary games.

The House also passed 22 Bills some of which have already become law following President Museveni’s assent.

According to information released at the end of the year, the Bills passed include the Human Rights (Enforcement) Bill, 2015, the Security Interest in Movable Property Bill, 2018, the Indigenous and Complementary Medicine Bill, 2015, the Uganda Wildlife Bill, 2017, the Minimum Wages Bill, 2015, the Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2018, the Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2019,the Tax Procedures Code (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Cooperatives Societies (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Roads Bill, 2018, the Appropriation Bill, 2019 and, the Physical (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

Passed Bills
Others are the Law Revisions Bill, 2019, the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2019, the Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the Kampala Capital City Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Landlord and Tenant Bill, 2018 and, the Institute of Parliamentary Studies Bill, 2019.

But what kind of legislation did Parliament engage in and how will it affected the Ugandans? Here are some of the Bills that attracted the attention of the stakeholders in the public.

One of the Private Member’s Bills that had been on the floor for some time, was moved by the Mitooma District Woman MP, Ms Jova Kamateka, on November 10, 2015.

The objective of the Bill was to give effect to Article 50(4) of the Constitution by providing for the procedure of enforcing human rights under Chapter Four of the Constitution and for related matters.

President Museveni assented to the Bill on March 30 and it was, therefore, promulgated and commenced on June 25.

The law gives jurisdiction of the High Court in regards to cases of human rights enforcement, including prohibition of the court from hearing applications in cases where the applicant can get redress under another law.

The Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2018
Parliament passed the Bill in May after it had been on the floor for nearly one year. The Bill provides for the creation of a special seat in Parliament for the Persons with Albinisms (PWAs).

The first time the PWAs will vote for their representative in Parliament as an interest group will be in the forthcoming elections.

However, according to the Electoral Commission roadmap, the special interest groups are expected to conduct their elections earlier before the presidential candidates’ nominations scheduled for September/October.

The disability categories provided for in the Bill are physical disabilities, albinism, sensory disabilities which include the deaf with speech, deaf without speech, deaf blind, hard of hearing, total blindness, low vision.

This Bill also sub-categorises physical disability as for persons with amputations of one arm, both arms, one leg and both legs, deformities of the lower limb, upper limbs, shoulders, forearms and hand, club feet, spina bifida, spinal cord injuries, rheumatism and little persons.

In the Bill which provides for accessibility by PWDs in public buildings, media houses and telecom companies, sets Shs300,000 as fine or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three months or both if found guilty of violating rights of such persons.

The Roads Bill, 2018
The Bill introduced by the Ministry of Works and Transport was passed on May 16. It became an Act of Parliament after it was assented to by the President on September 4.

What looked so controversial at the time the Bill was being processed by the Committee on Physical Infrastructure, was the proposal by government to increase the road reserve from the current 15 metres from the middle of the road on both sides to 40 meters.

The clause on that was opposed by majority of the MPs, citing fears that government may be wanting to take away private land without pay.

The Road Act provides for the introduction of road tolls where motorists pay each time they drive on a road.

The law also provides for fines and punishments for any kind of abuse. Some of the key fines are a Shs19.2m or imprisonment not exceeding four years, or both, Shs2m or imprisonment not exceeding five years, or both, a fine of Shs480,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both for nuisance on roads.

Other punishments are a fine of Shs480,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both for failure to comply with road signs and, a fine of Shs40b for a contractor who fails to meet required standards for construction of a road.

The Landlord and Tenants Bill, 2018
On June 15, Parliament passed the Bill that is yet to be assented to by the President and was the most controversial of the year. The Bill, introduced by Housing minister Chris Baryomunsi, if assented to, will see all rent transactions in Uganda made in local currency.

The Bill has a provision that a landlord will upon conviction be imprisoned for a period not exceeding one year for annoying a tenant.
According to the Bill, the landlords will have to install prepaid electricity metres for all
tenants to avoid extortion through hefty demands for payment of bills which they have not seen. There are still efforts by stakeholders, especially the landlords, to plead with the President not to assent to the Bill.

The Uganda Wildlife Bill, 2017
The Bill was passed in February and became law in July following the President’s assent.

It spells out stringent measures to curb poaching. For killing endangered species, convicted poachers will face life imprisonment or pay fine of Shs20 billion or both.

The 20 per cent share of the annual tourism revenue with communities neighbouring national parks is now a conditional grant unlike before where it was spent by districts and lower local governments.

Persons killed or injured as well as those whose crops or livestock is damaged by stray wild animals will be compensated by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

The law provides for the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife, strengthen wildlife conservation and management, and streamline roles and responsibilities for institutions in wildlife conservation.

Management also gives a node to community participation in wildlife through Community Wildlife Committees for each Protected Area.

The Minimum Wages Bill, 2015
The Bill was tabled in 2015 by Mr Arinaitwe Rwakajara, the Workers MP, and was passed in February.

The Bill provides that the Gender, Labour and Social Development minister will appoint a minimum wage board to fix a minimum wage. The minister is also mandated to announce the minimum wages annually.

However, the hopes for the workers, especially in the private sector to be assured of their minimum wage set by government are in balance because President Museveni on August 21 declined to assent to it, saying there are no gaps in the available laws. In a August 21, 2019, letter addressed to Ms Kadaga, the President rejected the Bill.

As Parliament broke off for end of year recess, there are a handful of legislations that need to be handled as soon as the plenary sittings resume.

Addressing journalists on December 20, Ms Kadaga said the report of the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the five electoral reform Bills had been completed by the time of prolonging adding that work on them would be done at the time of resumption early next year.

“What I can confirm is that by yesterday (December 18), the committee had completed writing the report but I prefer to handle them together and continuously. So, they will be handled when we return so that we get them off the agenda, and where additional work, may be budgeting be done early enough,” the Speaker said.

Ms Kadaga, however, said despite government tabling the reforms, it was not happy with the delay to constitute the Constitutional Review Commission.

The Bills that have a direct impact on how the 2021 elections will be organised are the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Electoral Commissions (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Political Parties and Organisations (Amendment) Bill 2019 and the Local Governments (Amendment) Bill 2019.

mkthembo@ug.nationmedia.com

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