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Unfinished Business As Parliament Goes on Recess

A number of items have been on the order paper since the beginning of the session in July but parliament has been able to handle only a handful for the last 5 months of its session. MPs spent more than two months debating the 2012/2013 budget and another two months to pass the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012.

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As parliamentarians break off for a two-month recess on recess, several important issues that the House set out to address remain pending.

 

On Friday December 13, the 9th Parliament ended the first half of their second session with most of the business lined up still untouched. A number of items have been on the order paper since the beginning of the session in July but parliament has been able to handle only a handful for the last 5 months of its session.

 

Some of the critical issues have remained pending that even their relevance now hangs in balance. The Public Order Management Bill, which the government hurriedly drafted at the peak of the Walk to Work protests in 2011, has not been passed more than a year after it was tabled. The bill was referred to the legal and parliamentary affairs committee for scrutiny after it was tabled in October 2011 and the committee finished its work and tabled the report in parliament in March this year.

The report has, however, never been discussed and the bill’s relevance has since been questioned since the purpose for which it was drafted—the Walk to Work and other demonstrations by the opposition over poor economic conditions—have since eased.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 which has created a lot of controversy both within and outside Uganda is also still at large. The issue has been on the order paper since the first session of the ninth parliament that ended in May this year. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga even promised to pass the bill before parliament goes on recess, calling it a Christmas gift to Ugandans after her showdown in October this year with the Canadian foreign minister at an Inter Parliamentary Union meeting in Canada over the same.

The report of the adhoc committee that was instituted in August last year to investigate the irregularities within the electricity sector was also not debated despite being on the order paper since August this year. The committee was set up to assess the performance of the sector and to investigate issues related to load shedding, power losses, tariffs, subsidies and power generation.

The committee finished its report and among its recommendations was that the contracts of Umeme, the power distributor, and Eskom, the generator be terminated. Umeme has since become a public company with 46% shares owned by Ugandans, power supply became relatively stable since Bujagali was completed.

Only one of the bills drafted to regulate the oil sector in February has been passed. The bills were tabled after parliament passed a resolution that no oil agreements should be signed until a law to regulate the sector is passed. Parliament has managed to pass only one of the bills, the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012, with a lot of work in the sector at a standstill although government defied a resolution of parliament and went ahead to sign a farm down between Tullow, Total and CNOOC in February.

Parliament however managed to discuss some of the contentious issues on which it spent most of the time which include the budget and one of the oil bills. Parliamentary commissioner Chris Baryomunsi said a lot of time was spent on those critical issues but congratulates parliament over completing them successfully.

The budget debate took more than two months with Parliament demanding that money be added to the health sector and the Executive insisting that doing that would upset the whole budget. It was later passed after an additional 39 billion shillings was given to the sector and government promised to add money to the sector through a supplementary budget.

It took parliament another two months to pass the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012, again due to the disagreements between the MPs and the executive over Clause 9 of the bill. The MPs argued that some of the roles that the Clause gives to the Energy Minister be given to the Petroleum Authority, while the Executive maintained that the roles were too critical and need to be performed by a political individual not technocrats.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is the Leader of Government Business, in his closing remarks thanked parliament for the great job it had done especially with the passing of the oil bill but reminded his colleagues that there are still 29 bills to consider.

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