Jacob Oulanyah says quorum is no longer a nightmare to him after the rules of parliament were amended to reduce the number of MPS required to vote on a bill or a motion.
He says since the COVID19 outbreak, Parliament has been able to debate and pass very many laws.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped the Parliament to overcome quorum
crisis that had dogged the legislative processes.
Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah says
while the COVID-19 crisis has had devastating effects on the lives of Ugandans,
it has provided opportunity for Parliament to review its procedure.
He says with fewer
number of MPS, the Parliament was able to perform much more in terms of bills,
motions and resolutions adopted.
Oulanyah says the
change in the rules of procedure in Parliament following the COVID-19 pandemic
has eased business in terms of passing bills and the adoption of the motions.
//Cue in “Quorum
used to be a nightmare….
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that COVID has assisted us on.”//
Oulanyah was the guest speaker at a Castle Think Tank Dialogue on
the effect of COVID-19 on the legislature.
Speaking at the Dialogue today he says now that it is
easier to conduct the business of parliament without adhering to the quorum
requirement, may be Parliament should review the rules to reduce on the numbers.
Rule 23(1) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament one
third (137 MPS) of all members of parliament entitled to vote to be
present in Parliament before a bill is passed into law.
With the COVID-19 restrictions related to social distancing,
the Parliamentary Commission decided to reduce the numbers to about one hundred
out of over 450 members of Parliament.
The rules of Parliament were also amended to provide for MPS
to attend Parliament virtually through technologies like Zoom instead of being
physically in parliament.
With the reduced numbers, MPS were able to adopt the 2020/2021
budget. The MPS also approved a motion for the creation of new cities of Arua,
Gulu, Jinja, Mbarara and Fort Portal, Mbale, Masaka, Hoima, Entebbe, Lira, and
motion on the cities had been in Parliament since late 2019.
The suggestion by the Speaker on review of the quorum
requirement renews old debate about quorum in parliament.
The quorum requirement sparked off debate in July 1999 when
the Democratic Party leaders, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere and Zachary Olum petitioned the constitutional court
challenging the validity of the Referendum and Other Provisions Act arguing
that it was not validly passed by Parliament because of lack of quorum as prescribed
by Article 88 of the Constitution.
While Oulanyah is in upbeat
mood about the performance of Parliament amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the
Associate Director of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies
(GLISS), Godbar Tumushabe says Parliament surrendered its functions to the
Tumushabe says a lot of the COVID-19 interventions by the
Executive were implemented without the oversight of Parliament.
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He says the absence or minimal check by Parliament on the
executive during the COVID-19 has rendered citizens hostage to the excesses of
the Executive. The Deputy Speaker
however admits that the COVID-19 restriction have substantially affected the way parliament
conducts public hearings.
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been affected significantly.”//
Some of the
participants at the Think Tank suggested that since Parliament can conduct
its business without huge numbers is testimony about the need to reduce the number of members of parliament for effective legislation.