More than 100 lawmakers have been listed as perpetual absentees from meetings that were scheduled in Parliament between the month of July 2017 and May 2018, the second year of the tenth parliament.
At least 37 of these missed meetings scheduled all year through.
According to a report on the performance of Parliamentary committees, there were 815 meetings split between Standing and Sectoral committees’ during the period under review. But a number of them were attended by a handful of members, a trend which slows legislative processes.
MPs who never attended any of the committee meetings include National Youth MP Sarah Babirye Kityo, Jie County MP, Moses Bilbad Adome, Workers MP Sam Lyomoki, Mukono Woman MP Peace Kusasira Mubiru, Kyamuswa County MP Caroline Birungi Nanyondo, Otuke County MP Julius Acon, Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi, Tororo North MP Annet Nyaketcho, Dakabela County MP Cosmas Elotu, Lutseshe County Godfrey Watenga Nabutanyi, Kabarole Woman MP Sylvia Rwabwogo and Kibanda North MP Taban Amin.
The others are, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu who missed the 39 meetings held by the Presidential Affairs Committee during the year, Apac Woman MP Betty Awor Engola, Omoro Woman MP Catherine Lamwaka, who missed all the 23 meetings of the Public Accounts Committee, Aruu County MP Samuel Odonga Otto, who missed all the 53 meetings of the Budget Committee, as well as Nakawa Division MP Michael Kabaziguruka and Kakumiro Woman MP, Robinah Nabbanja who skipped all the 16 meetings of the Rules Committee.
The rate of absenteeism was highest in the Committee on HIV/AIDS and Related Matters where at least eight members of the committee dodged all the ten meetings planned during the year. Other committees with a high absenteeism rate include Human Rights, Health, Public Accounts, Government Assurances and Rules, Discipline and Privileges
In his explanation, Workers MP Dr Sam Lyomoki said that he attended four of the 47 health committee meetings and none of those for the HIV/AIDS committee because he only attends meetings where he can make valuable contributions.
“We only attend meetings where what we are putting in is relevant, especially issues that relate to work, improvement of health. I participated in the Mental Health Bill including the final drafting. I don’t look at activity; I look at productity. You can attend more than 100 meetings when you’ve brought nothing board but I can attend once when I’ve brought somthing. Therefore I only attend when my skills and competence are needed,” he said.
Ngora Woman MP Jacqueline Amongin who attended nine out of 39 meetings of the Presidential Affairs Committee attributed her poor attendance to her deployment to the South African based Pan African Parliament.
Meanwhile, some MPs attributed their poor attendance to their leadership roles in other committees. For instance, Kole Woman MP Judith Alyek who attended nine out of 47 health committee meetings, was the chairperson of the Committee on HIV/AIDS and Related Matters.
Kalaki County MP Kenneth Ongalo-Obote says that he missed 15 of the 36 meetings of the Legal Affairs Committee because he was chairing the Rules Committee. Similarly, West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth who attended only one of the 16 meetings for Rules Committee, was during the same time, the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Oboth says that the committee performance report should be used as evidence that legislators need to be designated to sit on one committee in order to be effective.
Maracha East MP James Acidri, however, attributes absenteeism to “fraudulent allocation” of members to committees based on party loyalty and favouritism as opposed to interests and competence. Acidri attended only 10 of the 42 Finance committee meetings.
But the Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa downplays Acidri’s claims explaining that MP’s are expected to use the time to learn more from colleagues with expertise on the issues discussed in the various committees.
“You reap what you sow. I’m doing my work if you are absent, your voters are saying that you’re absent. The speaker reached a point of writing to them as individuals and cautioning them. It’ their names which are tainted because of abdicating their duties. You were elected to come here to Parliament and serve. So you really you reap what you sow. I’m trying to do my work and I’m dealing with people who are mature. They are my colleagues and I cannot push them beyond my capacity. With whips from the Opposition side, we meet the Speaker, we talk about it and she helps us to announce on the floor in her communication or to write to those people. But if it doesn’t work, then the voters will sort us out,” she said.
Early this month, The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga noted Eastern Youth MP Ismail Mafabi’s perpetual absenteeism from the House in the second and third sessions of parliament, adding he had breached Rules of Procedure by not informing her about his absence from Parliament. He now risks losing his seat in Parliament.
Now, Nankabirwa says voters must use their rights to edge out the perpetual absentees if parliament fails to deal with them.
Each MP is supposed to belong to one standing and one sectoral committee. Sectoral committees are changed every year while standing committees are changed every 2 and a half years.
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