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Kadaga calls for increased public involvement in legislative process

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LEGISLATION | The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has called for public involvement in the law making process instead of stampeding the legislature at implementation stage.

Citing the United Kingdom where the public is consulted before Bills are presented before Parliament, Kadaga said that in Uganda public participation remains limited and called for more engagement with the constituents.

“The public does not fit into our work yet. We do not necessarily have to consult everyone but we can take samples from different parts of the country so we have a voice of the people in the process,” Kadaga said.

The Speaker made the remarks while presiding over the opening of the Second Annual Legislature Sector Review at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo, on Thursday. The review is being held under the theme, “Legislating for sustainable development.”

In Uganda, legislators consult with citizens from time to time but these are limited to controversial bills, said Crime24 Parliament reporter Ritah Mugoya.

Some members of the public, however, are disinclined to believing in the consultations, saying the government only does so when it wants to appear accountable and avoid wholesome blame in the future, she added.

But Speaker Kadaga said an application that is being designed by Parliament to track the work of committees will enable public engagement in the legislative process.

“This app will now facilitate the public to comment on the Bills especially after First Reading because it is difficult for them to get involved at Second Reading,” she added.

If this was implemented, it would come as welcome to majority citizens would rather deal with their local council leaders than politicians such as MPs, according to a November 2017 survey by Twaweza East Africa, an non-profit organisation that works to promote a level socio-political and economic ground for citizens and their leaders.

Twaweza’s new Sauti za Wanaichi (Voices of the Citizens) survey shows that six-in-ten (62%) citizens believe that government is run by a few powerful people, leaving the ordinary citizen helpless to influence government decisions as the common perceptions goes.

“However, citizens are more positive about the potential for collective action. Six in ten (61%) say people can improve the country’s economy through responsible action,” the Sauti za Wanainchi, a nationally-representative, high-frequency mobile phone panel survey, says.

This suggests that the public would gladly welcome the idea that Parliament can consult them before passing legislation rather than leave the whole decision to their constituent representatives.

For instance, in the run up to the controversial passing of the Age Limit Amendment Bill in December last year, MPs were facilitated to consult their constituents and after the vote, several legislators were faced the wrath of those sent them to Parliament.

Most citizens accused MPs who voted in favour of scrapping age limit from the Constitution of going against the decisions arrived at during consultations.

Executive influence

Kadaga said the influence of the Executive in the final decision making processes hampers the delivery of work of Parliament and hence affects its independence.

“The separation of powers is very crucial in providing checks and balances,” she said. “This calls for government institutions to take action and act on recommendations as per the discussed reports in order to improve accountability and service delivery.”

Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo welcomed the idea of involving the public in the law making process citing the recent passing of the Excise Duty Bill, which introduced tax on mobile money transactions that was not received well by the public.

“If these consultations are done before passing of the Bills, it will save us the embarrassment. The views of the public can be incorporated before government brings the Bills for consideration,” Ssekikubo said.

The Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige, said the review is held to identify strong areas of performance and areas for improvement with the aim of informing the planning process of the next financial year.

At the sector review, Parliament is carrying out a self-assessment exercise. In 2008, the Inter-Parliamentary Union developed a self-assessment toolkit to assist parliaments assess their performance against widely accepted criteria for democracy and governance.

The self-assessment will assist Parliament to undertake an analysis of its performance during the third session of the 10th Parliament. This will lead to the identification of strengths, weaknesses and formulation of recommendations for reform and development. The report will then be presented to the IPU Secretariat by the Speaker.

The sector review is attended by Members and staff of Parliament, development partners and officials from the National Planning Authority.

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