Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament has granted the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee extra 25 days to conclude public hearings and its scrutiny of the five electoral reform Bills.
The decision was made after the committee chairperson, Jacob Oboth requested for extra time since the committee has exceeded the 45-day rule provided for the consideration of Bills and any other business including petitions.
The Bills seek to among other things reform electoral laws relating to the qualification of candidates, financing of elections and the manner in which elections will be held for the presidency, parliament, local governments and the role of political parties and the Electoral Commission for the smooth running of elections.
They also aim at conforming to the ten recommendations of the Supreme Court in the 2016 presidential election petition and the Constitutional Amendment Act, 2018 which lifted the age limit cap for presidential and local government candidates, extended the time for filing election petitions, hearing of petitions and the period for holding presidential by-elections when an election is nullified.
Oboth noted that while the committee has so far organised four regional meetings and some public hearings to collect views on the five Bills, there are still some parties who have expressed interest in making submissions as well.
Oboth noted that the committee is interested in receiving views from aspiring candidates, the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue-IPOD among others.
Some of the proposals in the Bills that have attracted wide debate include among others, declaration of campaign financing sources, independent candidates to cease being members of political parties and organisations 12 months to nomination, delaying elections for new districts until the next general election.
Oboth says that the committee has not been able to schedule groups interested in submitting their views because they have run out of time and therefore they need extra time to give opportunity to such groups and individuals as well as write the committee report on the Bills.
Oboth told the House that the committee would need additional 25 days after the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference slated for next week.
Parliament resolved that the committee is given the 25 days to complete the task.
In February, Parliament set a precedent when the Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah allowed debate on the Wildlife Amendment Bill before its second reading which required presentation of a report from the Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry.
The Bill, which provided for compensation for loss occasioned by animals escaping from wildlife protected areas, had been referred to the committee in July 2017.
However, Oulanyah skipped the report presentation tradition because the committee had breached the 45-day rule as well as the time extension period that had been granted.
Parliamentary guidelines provide that all bills presented before parliament are sent to the appropriate committees for analysis before they are presented for second reading. The committee is expected to review the draft and its contents, hold public hearings, include new clauses, suggest amendments if any, and report back to parliament within a period of 45 days.
Upon adopting the committee report, the bill is then considered for the second time, allowing the committee of the whole house to go through the bill, clause by clause.