The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has proposed that Parliament adopts the British model of legislation when considering Bills.
Kadaga suggested taking lessons from other legislatures so as to have the public at the heart of all legislative business.
“For the British, they first go to the population and introduce the proposed Bill; if the population doesn’t support the Bill, it is withdrawn,” Kadaga said.
Speaking at the start of a two day induction workshop for Committee Chairpersons and Vice Chairpersons at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Friday, the Speaker said that bills require rigorous scrutiny by all stakeholders and should be informed by research.
In Uganda, most proposed laws are introduced by government after approval by Cabinet, and then referred to a Parliament Committee for consideration. At this stage, the public is invited to give their views or input to the proposed legislation.
Kadaga also hit at MPs who take no time to study bills and reports, only to present amendments during plenary. She advised committee leaders to cultivate a culture of research saying the population they represent is well informed.
“I can assure you people who come with petitions come along with the Constitution and Acts of Parliament. They are knowledgeable and sometimes they poke holes into government policy and you wonder how no one saw this beforehand,” she said.
The Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, urged Committee leaders to fast track petitions, saying they provide a channel for Parliament to demonstrate its representative role.
He decried petitions that have taken five years without being considered by the House.
“The reasons why people still bring petitions to us is because they still have confidence in us, we are their last resort. If we take five years before debating their matters, what connection are we creating? What confidence are we building?” he asked.
Oulanyah noted that there is a disconnect between Parliaments and the public and called on committees to close this gap.
He challenged the new committee chairpersons to strike a balance between the interests of Cabinet and those of the public when processing bills.
“When a Bill is presented to Parliament, our purpose is to find out how it affects people’s interests; whether it can be implemented; such what we do not end up with what Cabinet has proposed but the aspirations of the people,” he said.
“When people feel that Parliament has listened to them, when they know the bills passed have their recommendations catered for; that is when you restore confidence, that is when people will believe Parliament is for them,” Oulanyah added.
Members however, expressed their frustration with poor response by Cabinet on recommendations of Parliament.
“We tend to get discouraged when we debate and make recommendations but they are not considered by Cabinet, yet it is Cabinet that takes charge of implementation,” said, Hon. Jovah Kamateeka, the Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights.