Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | There is need for parliamentary committees to increase and improve citizen engagement on business being handled, the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has observed.
She disclosed this while opening the third annual Legislature sector review at Hotel Africana, noting that weak citizen engagement is one of the key areas, parliament needs to improve.
Kadaga argued that while in the past parliamentary committees have invited stakeholders to submit views on various bills, there is need for them to travel outside Kampala and seek views of citizens in the country side, saying these are the people affected by the business before the committee.
“Don’t just listen to the minister and PS (Permanent Secretary) and then write your report,” Kadaga told the Committee leaders. Her observation stemmed from the recommendations of the second legislature sector review in the 2017/2018 financial year that among others noted the need for public engagement in Parliamentary business.
Despite this, Catherine Ninsiima from, the Corporate Planning and Strategy Directorate of parliament noted that the recommendation was not implemented in the 2018/2019 financial year.
Ninsiima said that while stakeholders submissions on Bills are to be attached to Parliamentary committee reports to inform debate as well as undertake stakeholder mapping during the review of the Bills to improve public participation, these haven’t been done.
She however noted that stakeholder submissions are attached to minutes of committee meetings as opposed to the reports of the bills. Kadaga on the other hand, said that the committees must increase their engagement with the public so that Bills that are passed have an input from citizens.
She also noted that there is need to put up reporting mechanisms and liaison or coordinator between committees and the office of the Speaker for better operations. Other areas include opening up to the public the Appointments Committee vetting process, following up on the recommendations of Parliament as well as compiling the rulings of the Speaker at the end of each session or year of Parliament for reference as well. She also noted the need for improved coordination among government ministries, departments and agencies to bring business to Parliament.
She noted that due to poor coordination, it is difficult to hold government accountable especially in relation to domesticating international instruments. Kadaga said this has caused delays in ratifying treaties and charters, saying parliament is at times shocked to learn that Uganda signed a number of these instruments.
She cited the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which Uganda signed over a decade ago but hasn’t been ratified. Kadaga commended the technical team and MPs for trying to address issues noted in the second legislature sector review such as effectiveness and efficiency in the enactment of legislation, strengthening institutional capacity of Parliament, improving citizen participation and contribution in promoting rule of law, transparency and accountability.
The annual sector review is a requirement in the National Development Plan-NDP II implementation framework. It is aimed at identifying key areas of achievement and challenges to performance during a given financial year to inform the planning process for the next financial year.
For instance, the third annual legislature sector review is for the 2018/2019 financial year will inform planning and implementation for the 2019/2020 financial year and the next strategic plan for Parliament.