What you need to know:
- To discuss MPs’ performance on the floor of Parliament, one needs to look at the broad perspective of our society and how politics have been crafted. This is because MPs and other politicians are products of our society and its polity.
Recently, a purported list of MPs performance in the last session was circulating on social media platforms.
This sparked a debate on local radios and social media as many assessed their MPs’ performance on the floor of Parliament.
On one of the local radios, I was asked to discuss why many MPs do not make contributions in Parliament and how best they can balance Parliament and constituency work and this makes a subject of my write-up today.
To discuss MPs’ performance on the floor of Parliament, one needs to look at the broad perspective of our society and how politics have been crafted. This is because MPs and other politicians are products of our society and its polity.
Whereas some MPs may not be doing their job, it is clear that there is a fundamental mis-match between the roles of an MP and the voters’ expectations, a contradiction that MPs have to deal with, which in turn affects productivity on their core mandate.
Whereas we should judge an MP based on his constitutional mandate, which is legislation, oversight, representation and appropriation, the voters, who are the primary “bosses” of MPs, use different parameters to judge them and so an MP has to strike a balance between his voters’ expectation and his national duty.
In Uganda, an MP who only concentrates on his core mandate as stated above stands more chances of losing the next election than an MP who abandons his core mandate and instead concentrates on attending social events and helping constituents sort their personal needs.
Generally, an MP, especially in a rural constituency, is considered hardworking when they see him attending burial functions, weddings, church fundraisings, fixing broken bridges and roads, repairing water sources, paying fees for the needy, paying loans for his constituents, etc.
Whereas these are not necessarily bad, and should be done as courtesy, they seem to be the most valued and the most demanded than the core roles.
We are in a situation where the voters have marginalised the central issues and centralised marginal issues, which in turn affect the performance of the legislature as an institution.
Secondly, the absence of government in terms of social services has increased pressure on MPs. It is the mandate of the government (Executive) to build schools, health centres, buying ambulances, constructing roads, water sources, bridges, job creation, promotion of talents like sports and providing social protection for the vulnerable people like orphans, elderly, etc. This has not been adequately done by the government because of corruption, poor planning, inadequate resources and bureaucracy. This leaves the MPs as the shock absorbers to stand in the place of government since they are the highly paid political leaders in our communities.
For example, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistices (Ubos -2022), more than 1,042,206 children (12 percent) in primary schools and 228,563 (17 percent) in secondary schools are orphaned, but do we have a specific programme to support orphans and other vulnerable children? At least 56 percent of Ugandans between 18 and 30 are under vulnerable employment, which means they are paid less, are not protected and have no social protection. A number of parishes have no primary schools, while a number of sub-counties have no health centres or secondary schools, to mention but a few. This means MPs have either to venture into other businesses to raise enough money to meet these demands and to prepare for the next election or they have to miss Parliament to attend to these overwhelming demands in the communities.
More to that, there is a deliberate attempt to divert national attention to Parliament other than the Executive. The MPs emoluments, money for vehicles, etc are highly publicised than those of ministers, commissioners, directors or chief executives in a government agency hence making the public hostile to MPs.
All the above are underpinned by early politicking by opponents, which makes MPs remain in campaign mood throughout their term of office. Until voter sensitization is done so that the people learn to demand the right things from their leaders, we shall not have many MPs fully attend to their core roles.
George Muhimbise, [email protected]