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Citizen’s expectations of the newly constituted parliamentary committees and appointed Permanent Secretaries

Officials of the Education, Health, Judicial and Public Service Commissions before the Budget Committee during a sitting. (Photo courtesy of parliament of Uganda official website.)

With the recent appointment of parliamentary committees and ministry permanent secretaries, ACFIM Talks last week discussed a number of issues surrounding the appointment of parliamentary committee members including the legalities, composition criteria, and expectations. Discussions from the show also shed light on the implication of the newly appointed personnel especially in terms of service delivery.

John Asiimwe, head of policy and Advocacy unit at the center for policy Analysis-Parliamentary Watch a guest on last week’s episode of the show described how committees are constituted. Article 90 0f the Ugandan constitution specifically requires that parliament shall appoint committees necessary for the efficient discharge of its function and parliament by its rules of procedure and prescribes the powers, composition, and functions of its committees. 

According to the constitution, committees shall have the powers of the high court in order to enforce the attendance of witnesses, examining them on oath as well as compel the production of documents. Given the West Minister style of Uganda’s parliament, committees execute 90% of work that happens in parliament.  

According to David Pulkol –ED Africa Leadership Institute (AFLI) another guest on the show, parliament has not been transparent in the criteria for appointment of committee members recommending that the process be made public. This is because, on many occasions, some Members of Parliament have complained that they are being punished by party whips, alleging that there is favoritism in appointment to the so-called “juicy” committees. 

“Are these appointments based on expertise, experience in a previous field, or based on interest?” Mr.Pulkol questioned. He added that the party in power has a manifesto to implement therefore in the fielding of committee members, the party should field their best members in order to execute their manifesto promised to citizens.

The opposition also has its manifesto with alternative policy agendas for particular sectors to make an impact. Mr.Pulkol hoped that these are the considerations the opposition makes so that they can influence government decisions. He discouraged personal vendetta, favoritism, nepotism, and corruption urging political parties to consider their assets in terms of human resources and deploy them accordingly so they can implement what they promised citizens. 

On whether there are juicy and dry committees, Ms.Asiimwe clarified that each committee has work plans that inform their budgets which are usually similar. Mr.Pulkol however disagreed on the view that committees are equal arguing that some committees are juicer than others in terms of travel opportunities and exposure for economic or political opportunities. 

According to AFLI, attendance of committee sessions is disappointingly poor at 40% with exception of the economy, finance and budget committee that scored up to 66% attendance being one of the most well-attended committees in parliament. The question is where are the rest of the members that crave to join these committees?

In terms of the productivity of committees, some are productive while others are barren, Mr.Pulkol noted. Some committees do not present a single report to plenary despite there being a vast number of reports to pick from for example the Auditor general’s report, Human rights commission report, Electoral commission report. These bodies report to parliament therefore if committees do not have work, they should at least digest the reports and bring them to parliament.

Conclusively the guests recommended that citizens be involved in decision making and also encouraged chairpersons and vices as much as possible to co-opt the public for their input. They also advised that ministers and members of parliament be encouraged to see that the bills brought are addressing SDGs are implementing the National Development plan 

You can watch the full show here in case you missed this episode of ACFIM Talks.

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