11th Parliament deserves kudos for resisting Executive overreach

Author: Mr Nobert Mao. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

  • As the first session of Parliament came to a close, the approval rating of Parliament shot up. First was the push back against the Vinci Coffee deal.

Next week Parliament will start its second session, or parliamentary year. A year ago as the Parliament started its term, there were mixed feelings. Today we look back and see how Parliament has pushed back against Executive overreach in financial matters and determinedly refused to buckle under pressure in the strategic sector of coffee. 

With a large majority of the Parliament comprising new entrants, the welcome to the new Legislature was not enthusiastic. There were concerns about the large size of Parliament, Cabinet and the backlog of unfinished business from the 10th Parliament.

The large numbers meant that the chamber would not be enough to accommodate all of them. Parliament also got a tongue lashing for the high cost it has to meet to rent space from private landlords.

And then late Speaker Jacob Oulanyah came out to denounce corruption by members, particularly those on oversight committees who he warned against succumbing to bribes in exchange for covering up graft. He spoke out strongly for the need to restore public confidence in the institution of Parliament and demanded that members conduct themselves with decorum. 

One day he advised a member who was engaging in too much drama to simply cross the road and ply his trade in the nearby National Theatre! He promised a people-centred Parliament. No wonder that Parliament did its utmost to care for him in his last days and to ensure he gets a befitting send off. If Parliament had not done some serious backstopping, the burial ceremonies of the late Speaker would have been a grand comedy of errors. 

Now his vision has new custodians. The new Speaker, Anita Among, and her Deputy, Thomas Tayebwa, together with Clerk Adolf Mwesige have formed a very strong bond. Good chemistry among top leaders in any institution is critical, especially in our fragile contexts where loyalties to other interests may undermine loyalties to the mission of the institution. 

I was pleasantly surprised last week when on a visit to Parliament I learnt that the Speaker and her Deputy had broken with the usual protocol and decided to meet the Clerk in his office rather than summoning him to the Speaker’s Chambers. 

This is clearly unprecedented. Previously, the Speaker had been photographed having lunch in the parliamentary canteen.

Those may be the fluffy aspects, but the Speaker has also not hesitated to draw a red line which a member may not cross without consequences. 

The censure and eventual ejection of Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake from the Parliamentary Commission has sent a clear message that even if you don’t respect the person holding an office, you have to respect the office. 

There’s no doubt that Anita Among is fully in charge of Parliament. She is firmly at the centre of the solar system of Uganda’s national Legislature. 

To a large extent the spirit of collegiate teamwork that she had with her late boss seems to be holding. It is apparent in the way she relates with her Deputy, with the Clerk and even with MPs.

This also applies in the way she relates with the Leader of Opposition and his troops from the opposite benches to her left. 

As the first session of Parliament came to a close, the approval rating of Parliament shot up. First was the push back against the Vinci Coffee deal that threatens to break the backbone of small coffee farmers and rip off the country. 

It did not help matters that the same cast of characters are the same ones that have failed to deliver a 200-bed hospital even after getting more than Shs300b on top of free land and tax breaks!

Second was the way Parliament boldly tackled the national budget and reduced certain unnecessary expenses and even reallocated other resources. This is commendable given the constitutional restrictions Parliament faces with regard to the budget. I hear some quarters in government criticised Parliament and even attempted to mobilise the President against the Speaker and Parliament. 

Parliament thus deserves praise for refusing to be a mere rubber stamp on the budget. In any case, the budget is a law. That is why it is called the Appropriations Bill. 

And when enacted it doesn’t take effect unless the President assents to it. So if the President has any objections, he will return it with comments.

So, as Parliament starts its second legislative year, the MPs have a strong tailwind of public goodwill propelling them forward. They should not spoil it.


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