By Max Patrick Ocaido
Members of the 10th Parliament spend more days on holiday than the actual number of days they spend in session discussing matters of national importance.
According to a research conducted by Kampala Post, ever since the second session of the 10th Parliament started in June 2017, MPs have up to the month of March 2018 sat in plenary for only 59 days out of the possible 124 days in which Parliament is supposed to be in session in accordance with the Parliament Rules of Procedure.
Rule 19 (2) of the Rules of Procedure state that, “Subject to sub-rule (4), the House shall sit on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.”
However, records from the Hansard- the official report of parliament indicate that MPs have so far spent 65 days on recess and have only been in plenary for 59 sittings or days excluding public holidays.
Records obtained indicate that the busiest month of the 2nd session so far is in July 2017 when MPs conducted 12 sittings out of the possible 12 days designated for Parliament to be in session in accordance with Rule 19 (2) of the Rules of Procedure. The second busiest month is September 2017 where MPs held 11 sittings out of the possible 12.
October 2017 is the worst performing month where the House held the least number of sittings, recording only 2 sittings out of the possible 13 sittings. That is on 3rd and 4th of October.
The other months where MPs held few sittings include; August 2017 (3 out of 15), November 2017 (4 out of 13), January 2018 (5 out of 14), February 2018 (5 out 12), March 2018 (5 out of 12), December 2017 (5 out of 9), June (7 out of 12).
Why the adjournments?
There have been situations where Parliament has been forced to go on recess because there is no speaker available to preside over business on the floor. This usually comes when both Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah are out of the country on official duties.
In August 2016, neither Oulanyah nor Kadaga were available to steer the House at a time when MPs were set to receive a motion from Kafeero Ssekitoleeko, Nakifuma County MP to amend article 144 of the 1995 Constitution to extend the age limit of Chief Justice and other justices of the Supreme Court from 70 to 75 years and Principal Judges and Judges of the High Court from 65 to 70.
Earlier that week, Oulanyah had sat in for Kadaga who was in Mauritius attending the 47th Common Wealth Parliamentary Association (CWP) Africa Region Conference. When she returned, it was obvious that she would chair the House, discuss Kafeero’s motion. Kadaga reportedly asked Oulanyah to chair the House that day on grounds that she was not prepared since she was out of the country, but the latter paid a deaf ear and instead drove to his country home in Omoro to bury his campaign manager’s father Mzee Cirillo Owiny Layo who had passed on. Left with no choice, Kadaga on that day decided to call off the plenary sitting.
Despite expecting 29 Bills from the government alone for consideration in this session, there have been situations where the presiding speaker has adjourned plenary for weeks for lack of business.
On November 29, 2017, Deputy Speaker Oulanyah adjourned the House for a two-week ‘holiday’ a few days after returning from more than one-month recess. He said that the House would be adjourned until December 12, 2017 considering that there was no business to handle.
“Honorable members, there being no business [today], the formal sitting of Parliament will remain adjourned until 12th of December, Parliament is not in recess, the sitting is only adjourned to 12th at 2 o'clock. But tomorrow(Thursday, 30) we shall have a special sitting to pay tribute to the first woman chief magistrate, the first woman judge and the first woman Deputy Chief Justice, Lady Leticia Kikonyogo,” Oulanyah told the House then.
Before Parliament resumed business on December 12, 2017, MPs had been on recess since October 14 when Speaker Kadaga adjourned the House sine die to allow members conduct countrywide consultations on the age limit Bill. However, on November 6, MPs were called back for a special sitting to pay tribute to Ruhaama County MP William Beijukye who had passed away. After the special sitting, the MPs then returned to do their consultation meetings that ended on November 8. They were again treated to another two-week break before business resumed on November 27.