Several Members of Parliament are under the spotlight for their continued absence from committee activities without any clear reason. URN has learnt that the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has written to the MPs demanding explanation for their absence from the various committees they are attached to in the last session of the Tenth Parliament.
This came to the limelight at the Mukono Municipality; Betty Nambooze shared a July 7th 2018 letter addressed to her by Kadaga questioning her absence from 19 out of the 23 meetings held by the Public Service and Local Government Committees without permission.
In her letter, Kadaga says Nambooze's absence without authorisation from the office of the speaker is contrary to Rule 111 (6) and 112 (1&2) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament. She also notes that the legislator's absence has affected committee work and undermined the performance of parliament in general. Rule 111 (6) provides that except with the permission of the Speaker, a member shall not absent himself or herself from fifteen or more sittings of the House during any period when the House is continuously sitting.
This rule applies to meetings of the Committee of Parliament. Rule 112 (2) require the Committee Chairpersons to report to the Speaker absentee MPs so that written warnings are made.
"As you may be aware, the bulk of Parliamentary work are referred to, and considered by Committees of Parliament. It is as well in Committees that Parliament holds the executive accountable in accordance with its oversight function. As a result, most of the work in plenary comes from Committees, and therefore, failure by a committee to effectively handle business before it adversely affects the performance of Parliament in general," reads Kadaga's letter to Nambooze.
She warns that the persistent absence of the legislator from Committee activities in the next Parliamentary Session will attract disciplinary proceedings under Rules 111 (7) and 112 (2) of the Rules of Procedures. The Rules provide that where any member persists in absenting himself or herself, the Speaker refers such a member to the Committee on Rules, privileges and Discipline and when the committee finds the member guilty and its report adopted by parliament, the member ceases to be an MP under Article 83 (1) of the Constitution.
Nambooze, who is currently bed ridden, said she is surprised by the speaker's letter. "I was waiting for a get well card from my Speaker but I instead got a letter of indictment accusing me of absenting myself from Committees especially in the last session. But I was wounded in my line of duty in Parliament last September and the Speaker has been part of this, she personally visited me in hospital, she personally authorized for treatment abroad and here," said Nambooze.
She explained that the speaker was dully informed when her condition deteriorated recently at the hand of police. "If I am in good health, I don't need any whipping in as far as doing my job is concerned. I am one of those MPs who can whip herself," said Nambooze.
Chris Obore, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Parliament confirmed the issuance of the letters by the speaker, but declined to comment on the details of the letter.
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However, sources in Parliament told URN that the speaker issued several letters to other legislators basing on activity reports from the second session.
"Whenever a Session ends, a report is done on the performance of committees and its individual members and this covers the MP's attendance of committee sittings and field visits. That confidential report was sent to the Speaker and it is what she based on to issue letters to several MPs," said a source on condition of anonymity.
URN spoke to some legislators about the letters. Angelline Osegge, the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee- PAC, said the letters were okay administratively but said the speaker needs to get more serious because MPs are involved in different activities.
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Henry Maurice Kibalya, the Bugabula South MP welcomed the move by Kadaga, saying MPs ought to be accountable to their constituents.
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Worker's MP, Dr. Sam Lyomoki, defended his fellow MPs and instead asked Parliament to focus on improving the quality and environment of debate.
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There are 452 MPs in the tenth parliament. Each legislator, seats on a Standing and Sectoral Committee.