The Parliamentary Commission is considering setting up a Liaison Office for the Leader of Government Business in Parliament. The Office, which will facilitate the Prime Minister in the conduct of parliamentary business, will also be key in easing the interaction between the Executive and Parliament.
Backbench Commissioners of Parliament, led by Hon. Nokrach William, are visiting the National Assembly of Zambia from 27thto 30th April 2015 to share best practices and procedures in setting up a parliamentary liaison office. Currently, the Uganda Parliament is analyzing the national budget and the visit will inform their decision.
“The Prime Minister is the head of government business in the Parliament of Uganda and sometimes we have had embarrassing situations where a Minister is not in the House or does not adequately answer questions raised, so we hope learning from the operations of your Liaison Office can give us pointers on how we can address some of these challenges,” Hon. Nokrach said during a meeting with the Zambian Speaker on Monday 27th April, 2015.
The Speaker of the National Assembly of Zambia, Rt. Hon. Justice Dr. Patrick Matibini informed the delegation that the Office of the Vice President, who is also the Leader of Government Business, is housed in Parliament. He explained that the Office is for the convenience of the Leader of Government Business when he/she is in Parliament and is serviced by civil servants but are not paid by Parliament. The office is coordinated by a Permanent Secretary who is in charge of parliamentary business in the Office of the Vice President.
The Clerk to the Assembly, Ms. Doris Katai Mwinga further explained that all government ministries have parliamentary liaison officers. The officers are regularly briefed by the Clerk and the Cabinet Secretary on their role in assisting their ministries to account to parliament, anticipate questions and to assist in preparation of ministerial statements.
The Clerk was also happy to share with the delegation that following their study visit to the Parliament of Uganda, the Parliament of Zambia now plans to establish a Parliamentary Budget Office in their Assembly.
The Speaker revealed to the delegation that the National Assembly of Zambia has undergone some reforms, among which is, the establishment of a Parliament Radio station which broadcasts live parliamentary proceedings all over the country. He added that the radio is key in bringing Parliament closer to the people. The Assembly also established constituency offices in all the 150 constituencies with staff recruited and paid by Parliament. The offices are headed by Members of Parliament regardless of party affiliation.
Hon. Akol Rose Okullu informed the delegation that the Parliament of Uganda also hopes to establish a radio and television station to facilitate interaction between Parliament and the people and that this would be key in dissemination of information about Parliament to all its stakeholders.
With a population of 14.5 million people, the Assembly, which has 159 Members of Parliament, has all its committees chaired by the Opposition although the ruling party, the Patriotic Front, has majority Members in Parliament. The Assembly is also one of the unique parliaments in Africa where wild game such as Zebras and antelopes can be seen walking in the precincts. There are plans to increase the variety of game to include peacocks and impalas among others.
The Ugandan delegation to Zambia includes Hon. Nokrach William (Commissioner), Hon. Okumu Reagan (Commissioner), Hon. Akol Rose Okullu (Commissioner) and Hon. Kasirivu Atwooki.