The highs and lows of 10th Parliament

 Members of the 10th Parliament during a plenary session. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • On May 11, the 10th Parliament was dissolved after a five-year term that commenced in May 2016. The disbandment of the House paved way for the MPs-elect swearing-in this week, which ran from May 17 to 20.
  • This will be followed by the election of Speaker and Deputy on May 20 at Kololo. As the 11th Parliament commences, Esther Oluka looks back at the performance of the previous House. 

On May 11, Speaker of 10th Parliament Rebecca Kadaga ended business of the House after a long day’s plenary. 
“I want to assure Honourable Members and citizens (that) a motion will be moved in the second sitting of the new (11th) Parliament to reinstate business which has not been completed and under Rule 325 of the Rules of Procedure, this business must be handled in the first session of Parliament,” Ms Kadaga told MPs in her concluding remarks. 

Reflecting on his time in the 10th Parliament, Mr David Bahati, Ndorwa County West MP and minister of State for Finance in-charge of Planning, said it had been a blessing to serve in the House for the last five years. 

“Key among the laws we have passed is the amendment of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) Act that will remove delays that had become stumbling block to the implementation of projects,” he said. 

Mr Bahati also cites the Succession Amendment Bill, 2018, passed in April 2021, and covers both male and female as inheritors of properties. He also cited the National Climate Change Bill, passed in April 2020, to tackle the crisis of climate change. 

He said the House had also passed and appropriated Shs218 trillion to implement the National Development Plan.
While addressing the media on May 10 about achievements of the 10th Parliament, Ms Kadaga conceded that they did not do as many out-reaches as the 9th Parliament, but said 112 Bills had been passed.

But there were also 18 Bills that the 10th Parliament failed to pass, but Ms Kadaga was quick to add that any pending business would be saved for the 11th Parliament. She blamed the delay on the Covid-19 pandemic, which frustrated routine running of business of the House.

She waved off criticisms by journalists that Parliament was spending hefty sums of money, which media reports put at more than Shs1b to hire tents for use during plenary sessions.

“So, we should sit under a tree? We can move and sit under those trees of KCCA (Kampala Capital City Authority). Do you want Parliament to sit or not to sit? We left the chambers because the Ministry of Health told us to leave, but, if you want us to close, we shall do so and move to sit under trees,” Ms Kadaga said. 

A statement by the Clerk to Parliament, Ms Jane Kibirige, issued a day after the media briefing indicated Parliament hires out two tents for each sitting of the House at an estimated Shs4.2m since each service provider levies different charges. 

“Parliament will only pay for the tents for the days they are used, that is, on the days plenary sits. Tents are not paid for on the days they are not used, even when on location, for example, over the weekend and on other days the House does not sit,” Ms Kibirige said. 

She said Parliament was in advanced stages of buying its own 30 by 40 tents and would then stop hiring any more tents from private service providers. 

MPs of the 10th Parliament abandoned the House chambers to conduct business in tents erected in the parking lot to observe the standard operating procedures (SOPs) aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19.  

A new chamber, which will accommodate the 529 MPs of the 11th Parliament, is under construction. This is also calculated to resolve the crisis of office space that has plagued the 10th Parliament.

Mr Francis Onapito Ekomoloit, the director of corporate affairs at Nile Breweries Ltd and a veteran journalist, says the Ugandan society has progressively distorted the legal and constitutional mandate of Parliament. 

“Parliament is the most overrated, misunderstood and helpless institution. There is the notion that the House can change the destiny of this country, yet, in reality it does not have the power to supervise the Executive. And, it is misunderstood because the ordinary person believes their MP is going to change their lives by putting money into their pockets, help them bury their dead, and finance their marriage. So this gross misunderstanding of the role of Parliament is making their work increasingly untenable,” he says.

For Ms Sheila Kawamara-Mishambi, the executive director of the Eastern African Sub-Regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI), it was the debate on age limit and approving of loans that stood out for her in the 10th Parliament. 

“The only thing I remember them doing was debating the 2017 amendment Bill that sought to remove the 35 and 75 years lower and upper age caps for persons eligible to contest for President,” she says.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding the debate around the Bill that went as far as Special Forces commandos invading Parliament chambers to physically extract MPs opposing to have the presidential age limit removed. Fighting later ensued between some of the MPs and the Special Forces commandos. 

The amendment to remove the presidential age limit came into conclusion on December 27, 2017, when President Museveni signed it into law. This paved way for President Museveni to qualify to contest in the recently concluded elections and in other years to come.

“Indeed, Parliament is supposed to be a House where people differ, but when MPs degenerate into fist fights, it ends up making things ugly. For me, that is where the MPs lost it,” Ms Kawamara-Mishambi says. 

She also criticised the way Parliament ended business by hurriedly approving Shs2.4 trillion loans, adding to Uganda’s spiralling debt burden.

“So, for me, every time anyone mentions anything about the 10th Parliament, my mind quickly wanders to MPs who are fist fighters and loan approvers,” she says. 

Ms Cissy Kagaba, a lawyer and the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU), cites frequent absenteeism of MPs. 

A performance of parliamentary committees released in 2019 shows that more than 100 MPs were named as habitual absentees between July 2017 and May 2018. Nevertheless, Ms Kagaba gives the 10th Parliament some credit for passing many previous pending Bills. 

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.

Bills passed
•Income Tax Amendment Bill, 2016 
•Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2016
•Comesa Treaty (Implementation) Bill, 2016
•Anti-Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2016
•Leadership Code (Amendment) Bill, 2016
•Uganda Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2016
•Income Tax (Amendment) (No. 1) Bill, 2017
•Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2017
•Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2017
•Tax Procedures Code (Amendment) Bill, 2017
•International Conference on the Great Lakes Region Bill, 2016
•Income Tax (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2017
•Lotteries and Gaming (Amendment) Bill, 2017
•Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Bill, 2015
•Appropriation Bill, 2017

Bills signed into law
•Administration of the Judiciary Bill, 2018
•National Payment Systems Bill, 2018
•National Local Content Bill, 2019
•Appropriation Bill, 2020
•Excise Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2020
•Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2020
•Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2020
•Stamp Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2020
•Tobacco Control (Amendment) Bill, 2020
•Sugar Bill, 2019
•Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Political Parties and Organisations (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Traffic and Road Safety Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Institute of Parliamentary Studies Bill, 2019
•Physical Planning (Amendment), Bill, 2018
•Law Revision Bill, 2019
•Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2019
•Law Revision (Penalties in Criminal Matters) Miscellaneous (Amendment) Bill, 2015
•Kampala Capital City Authority (Amendment) Bill, 2015
•Anti- Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill, 2019
•Landlord and Tenant Bill, 2018

Pending Bills 
•Patients’ Right Bill
•National Graduate Scheme Bill
•Administration of Parliament Bill
•Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill
•Two Constitutional amendment Bills (No2 and No3)
•Anti-Slavery Bill
•Real Estate Agents Bill
•Public Enterprise Reform Bill
•The Markets Bill
•The Fisheries Bill
•Parliamentary Pension Bill 
•Marriage and Divorce Bill