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Absenteeism and backlog hinder business in Parliament

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Kampala – Accountability committees are always praised for their good work, but the current backlog burden they carry says otherwise. The committees are also dreaded for the massive load of work that they handle. However, backlog in Parliament cuts across all committees of the August house

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is stuck with more than 300 undebated reports left behind by the previous group. The committee has some undebated Auditor General’s reports, value-for-money audits and inquiries dating WAY back as 2005.

To make matters worse, the Auditor General just released the new report for year 2014.

What the Law says

Article 163(4) and (5) of the Constitution says that the Auditor General shall submit to Parliament annually a report of the accounts audited by him or her for the financial year immediately preceding Parliament then debates and considers the report and takes appropriate action.

The reports are supposed to take 6 months for it to be completed, then the report is handled and Committee refers it back to the house. However the 6months for many of the accountability committees have progressed to years.

“The end result of the committees is also a challenge. Non action on the recommendations and findings de-motivates the committee members so the 6 months period is very hard to follow,” says MP Kwizera, a member of the PAC committee

He further added that the political conflicts within the committee kill morale for some of the NRM members go to accountability committees to defend or protect the interest of the government and opposition wants to criminalise everyone to show that government is not working.

According to MP Paul Mwiru, Vice chairperson PAC, backlogs are as a result of 3 issues, Capacity of the technical staff, report writing is wanting and the number of technical staff, initially PAC had 1 clerk and this largely explains the backlogs.

The committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) and Local Government Accounts, has reports date way back to 2000 and hasn’t handled reports of 2013

The committee has registered just about 3 per cent performance, creating a huge backlog of 97 per cent of the reports to be handled by current chair, Mr Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda (Kyaddondo East).

“We are bogged down and we are going to change our method of work. There are years where Parliament did not debate any reports at all from this committee and we cannot apply the same work method,” said Chairperson Committee MP Ssemujju Nganda

While addressing legislators at the end of year party for the 9th Parliament last year, Kadaga noted the embarrassment of backlog and complained that committees had failed to work within the legal time frame and promised to enforce the 45 day rule for bills referred to all committees.

Backlog on None accountability committees

Petitions, motions and bills are gathering dust in committees but for MPs, it is business as usual.

About the committee on legal and Parliamentary affairs, as of January 2015, the committee is still looking at the Parliamentary Pensions (Amendment) Bill, 2014,

Considering of the Reports from 2007-2013,IGG Reports

The Committee is also considering the petition on the under-performance on the Law Development Centre.

On the Committee on rules, privileges and discipline, status of business as at 13th January 2015.

The Committee is currently compiling a report on the allegations of bribery against the members of parliament about the termination UMEME contract.

The Committee has scheduled a study to Eastern Uganda from 20th January 2015 to assess the performance of Local Governments in the region.

Committee on physical infrastructure committee business status as of dec 31st 2014, there are four petitions pending from 2014, 4 petitions are placed on business to follow, one petition lost interest, there are 3 reports on business to follow, yet the committee has to look at the ministerial policy statements for the budget for Financial year 2015/2016.

As Parliament suffocates with backlog, deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah informed the house that due to Government delay to submit the budget framework paper, budget bills and ministerial policy statements, Parliament is to handle the entire budget process in one month.

The Executive also has its flaws, for at the start of the Fourth Session, the government had proposed 64 new Bills but they have only brought one: Registration of Persons Bill, 2014.

“The Government promised to bring bills to this house but they haven’t, the Prime Minister should check on this “ said the Speaker Kadaga during ask the Prime minister session.

A treasury memorandum is then supposed to be prepared by the Permanent Secretary ministry of finance and Secretary to the Treasury (in this case, Keith Muhakanizi) but this has happened once during the 9th Parliament.

The Treasury memoranda to Parliament indicate government’s actions taken on Parliament’s recommendations arising from the report of the Auditor General. But PAC and COSASE got a Treasury memorandum was in the financial year 2004/2005.

This revelation would suggest that the government has never acted on the previous committees’ recommendations rendering their work redundant.

Way forward

Chair person PAC committee MP Alice Alaso suggests that to ensure the dedication of MPS to the committees, the chief whips should work with the chairperson to follow up on their attendance and monitor the performance of their MPS so that when they next apply to go to those committees they can refuse them, maybe it will improve the attendance.

Mr Kaasiano Wadri, when still PAC chair, once proposed that the committee be divided into two to handle various reports at the same time but structural and administrative problems were raised by Parliament with concerns that the committee needed two clerks, and two permanent committee rooms which could not be availed.

MP Kwizera a member of PAC suggests that the members of the Accountability committees should be members that understand accountability processes, not merely political, this would help fasten the works of a committee.

The question of backlog in Parliament is that is still suffocating the work of the august house, with “no show” of MPs leading to the lack of quorum, most of the work by committees hasn’t been carried out.

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