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Clerks Director, MPs disagree over committee operations

The Director Clerks in Parliament Emmanuel Bakwega. PHOTO via @Parliament_Ug

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Emmanuel Bakwega, the Director Clerks in Parliament has disagreed with a section of legislators on the operations of house committees, particularly on work plans and funds. The heated discussion was part of the self-assessment exercise on the final day of the Third Annual Legislature Sector Review for the 2018/2019 financial year.

The discussion stemmed from some concerns raised during the review including the limited capacity of staff and MPs in comprehending emerging Public Finance Management reforms, knowledge and skills in handling emerging global trends such as oil, gas and loan financing modalities and delays in processing business among others.

While Parliament had planned to pass 70 Bills by the third year, only 54 bills were passed. MPs  led by the Butebo Woman MP, Agnes Ameede and West Budama North, Marksons Jacob Oboth pointed out that operations of some committees are impeded by wanting staff including clerks, who are at times undisciplined and unprofessional.

Ameede, who is also the vice chairperson of the Committee on East African Community Affairs, said sometimes, Committee clerks travel or are assigned other official duties without notifying committee members and leaders, which slows down work.

Oboth, who is also the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee noted that some clerks don’t have standard report writing formats, which delays the presentation of reports.

He however, noted that committees submit annual and quarter work plans and are approved, but it is difficult to implement the activities when the technical team, particularly Bakwega, says there are no funds.

Bakwega however refuted claims that the committee clerks derail the work of committees and instead said the leaders and members are responsible for failing to meet targets.  However, Ameede insisted that some clerks abscond from duty or do not notify committee members and leaders in case they will not make it for work.

The Assistant Director Human Resource Department, Frank Mutagubya, confirmed that some staff have in the recent past been found culpable of failing in their work.

He however, agreed with Bakwega that sometimes work is not done because of weaknesses on the side of leaders and members.

Bakwega noted that besides human resource challenges, committees just like other departments, are affected by limited funds allocated to Parliament.  In the 2018/2019 financial year, Parliament needed Shillings 1 trillion but received Shillings 596 billion hence a shortfall of Shillings 431.

Committees were allocated Shillings 23.7 billion, which has been increased to Shillings 27.4 billion in the 2019/2020 financial year budget. Parliament has 28 standing and sectoral committees. Each is expected to submit its annual work plan to Bakwega’s office for approval and release of funds.

However, Bakwega explained that some committees require Shillings 2 billion but he can only release about Shillings 350 million.

He however, castigated MPs for using committee funds for “unnecessary” benchmarking trips.

Oboth says Bakwega’s team should rethink the methodology of releasing funds, according to “first come first serve” basis despite approved work plans and his views on benchmarking trips.

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