Here is evidence on growing public trust in Parliament

Wednesday November 20 2019

 

By Ibrahim Manzil

The Daily Monitor of Monday, November 11, 2019, carried a comment, ‘The crisis of public trust in Parliament and the way out.’ In the comment, Emilly Comfort Maractho suggested that Parliament is in a “crisis of public trust.”
However, unlike many critics who would conveniently close both eyes to the many efforts Parliament makes towards bridging the gap with the public, the comment in issue makes some important admissions with regards to the tireless undertakings Parliament makes to deliver the public trust with which it is entrusted.
In this our nascent democracy, it is our duty to contribute ideas that will quicken our move to democracy. It is even more critical that we take stock of progress that has been made so that the criticism is well-grounded and points to areas that require immediate action.
First, the Parliament recognises the changing nature of society in this fast-paced technological era, where citizens’ grievances have to be handled promptly, judiciously and conclusively. Being the highest democratic forum where the interests of the public are aggregated, Parliament entrenched in its Rules of Procedure of handling and disposing of petitions from citizens of all spheres of life. Some are filed through the Office of the Speaker, where petitioners have the chance to make their case before Speaker Rebecca Kadaga or her deputy Jacob Oulanyah.
As the circumstances may dictate, such petitions are sometimes filed through the Office of the Clerk to Parliament, and are tabled before the House, for transmission to the relevant Committee for expeditious handling.
A case in point is the petition by the Buhweju Artisanal Miners to the Speaker regarding their loss of livelihood - the mines, and the fact that many were on the verge of losing their homes to give way to other mining interests. This petition is now before the Committee on Natural Resources that has since visited the area and will make findings for appropriate action by Parliament.
Since the writer is an enthusiastic follower of Parliament business, she might have routinely come across countless petitioners seeking an audience with the Speaker, Deputy Speaker or Committees of Parliament. This is evidence of the confidence people have in the Legislature contrary to the generalised arguments which are often lacking in basis.
Parliament receives about 1,000 visitors a day (numbers recorded through the visitors’ gate). In three months, the number of visitors that come to tour Parliament for educational purposes is 37,417 and 487 schools.
It is important to consider the interest Ugandans show in being part of Parliament. In the last General Election, nearly 2,000 Ugandans offered themselves to contest for parliamentary seats, which cannot be evidence of waning public trust in the institution of Parliament.
Every January, Parliament opens up to the public during the Parliament Week so that citizens can access the institution, legislators and leaders and interact with them as they learn. This activity attracts more than 15,000 citizens, and the number has been increasing phenomenally in the last three years since its inception.
This easily makes Parliament the most open public institution that allows citizens easy access and interaction with legislators. This is in addition to the more than 200 journalists accredited to cover the institution.
The article made references to the efforts Parliament is making to ensure trust is increased, and will not be repeated here. On the issue of academic qualification and number of MPs, the Republican Constitution recognises the sensitivity of political rights and the right to aspire to govern, which is the basic reason democracy exists in the first place.
Even with the current requisite qualification as the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education or its equivalent, the writer admits that MPs are highly qualified academically, and you will struggle to find that Member with just the minimum UACE qualification. This can be verified on the Parliament website www.parliament.go.ug.
Parliament is, therefore, an institution enshrined in public trust and transparency, and this has only made it more accessible and relevant to its stakeholders. All this is in line with the institution’s Mission, ‘to achieve improved accountability, representation, democracy and good governance for sustainable development in Uganda.’
Mr Manzil is the information and public education officer at Parliament of Uganda.

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