Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah yesterday directed that all Bills passed by the 10th Parliament but not assented to by the President be tabled afresh.
The directive, made during a plenary that the Speaker jointly chaired with his Deputy Anita Among, affects the progress of a dozen bills, including the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Bill.
Other bills affected include the Sexual Offences Bill, the Succession Bill, The National Health Insurance, The Fisheries Amendment Bill 2020, and National Climate Change Bill 2020. Also affected are Anti-Slavery Bill 2020, Local Content Bill, the Real Estates Bill 2020, the Estates of Missing Persons (Management) Amendment Bill 2019, Land Lord and Tenant Bill 2019, Marriage and Divorce Bill 2015, and the Succession Amendment Bill 2020.
The NSSF Bill 2019 (Amended) had endorsed a proposal to allow savers who clocked 45 and had saved for 10 years to access 20 per cent of their savings. After nearly six months of back and forth with workers and managers of the fund, President Museveni agreed to assent to the Bill with amendments. He was, however, yet to return the Bill for reconsideration by yesterday.
The Health Insurance Bill that seeks to ease the burden of out-of-pocket expenditure on medical care had been in the works since the 1980s.
Speaker Oulanyah premised his decision on Rule 235 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, which provides that a Bill, petition or motion or other business before House or committee lapses upon resolution of Parliament.
“Business of the 10th Parliament that remained incomplete lapsed when the term of Parliament ended. Any member or government who has desires of having business of the 10th Parliament that wasn’t completed by the end of that Parliament should have the business reintroduced in the House and the business shall begin afresh,” Mr Oulanyah said, adding: “Let us get busy with not merely business that regulate lives of people, but also facilitate the enjoyment of their rights.”
Whereas rule 203 in Parliament’s Rules of Procedure provides for a motion to reinstate business from a dissolved House to be moved during the second sitting of the new House this was not done. Mr Oulanyah said he questioned “the manner in which such business comes to the 11th Parliament and the difficulty to track the timelines as required in our Rules of Procedure to execute these assignments.”
Similarly, the Speaker directed that the Parliament’s Rules, Discipline and Privileges Committee examine and close the loopholes that may be found within the provisions of the law that cater to the time and process the President follows to assent to a Bill.
“We can never determine when the President receives it yet the time starts running when we transmit. We should have a process that gives a clear timeline where it is given to the President and then the 30 days start running,” said Mr Oulanyah.
In an attempt to get clarity on the matter, Kira Municipality MP Mr Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda inquired about the fate of other Bills expected to directly affect the welfare of Uganda.
“There are many Bills that we completed in the last Parliament, one of them is the NSSF Bill. I don’t know how many people have called me and want to benefit from mid-term access…what do we do with them?” Mr Ssemujju asked.
Mr Nganda also saw merit in the Speaker’s directive, concluding that “once the previous Parliament is gone, then whatever was in it should not be brought into this Parliament.” He, however, thinks it will be an uphill task convincing the government to for one amend the NSSF Bill.
“We have to start afresh and ensure that all the gaps raised are closed because Mr Museveni does not want workers to get their midterm access. We are, therefore, headed for an unknown hurdle of having to persuade and convince the government,” Mr Ssemujju said.
Bugiri legislator Asuman Basalirwa was similarly displeased, holding that it frustrates legislation efforts and wastes resources.
“This takes us back because time and resources invested were a waste. Therefore, this is not good for us as a country and fails progress,” Mr Basalirwa said, adding:“We, therefore, need to think about amendment to demand that a new Parliament starts with business that was handled by the previous Parliament.”
Mr Wilfred Nuwagaba, the Shadow Attorney General, said: “I agree with him to a large extent because when the President sent back two Bills that had been passed by the 10th Parliament, we wrote a minority report. The Speaker called us and we had a discussion.”
He was, however, unhappy because the Opposition wing didn’t have the numbers to oppose the decision by the Speaker.
“We have to go by it because we could not marshal the numbers at that stage and the numbers to say ‘no’ or oppose that,” Mr Nuwagaba said.
Oulanyah’s ruling on pending Bills
Kampala. On June 4, 2021 during my communication at the State of the Nation Address, I made reference to Business that remained incomplete by the 10th Parliament, I noted then that; whereas that was the second sitting of the house, the first having been the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, ordinarily, a motion should have been moved in that sitting to reinstate business that lapsed with the Tenth Parliament in line with Rule 203 and Rule 235 (2) of the Rules of Procedure.
I then guided that, given the nature of that day’s sitting, the motion would be moved at an appropriate future sitting.
On August 26, 2021, again in my communication, I made reference to Business that remained incomplete by the 10th Parliament.
I did question the manner in which such business comes to the 11th Parliament and the difficulty to track the timelines as required in our Rules of Procedure to execute these assignments. My guidance was that, that business must be reintroduced to Parliament and the date at which it is introduced begins to run then. Despite my guidance then, I have continued to receive requests from individual MPs to have the business of the previous Parliament reinstated.
Rule 235 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament quoted verbatim: Lapse or Reinstatement of Business upon Dissolution of the House; 1. A Bill, Petition, Motion or other Business before the House or a Committee during a term of Parliament lapses upon Dissolution of Parliament.
2. Notwithstanding sub rule (1), a Bill, Petition, Motion or other Business before the House or any of its committees may be reinstated in the next Parliament by a resolution of Parliament.
3. The reinstatement of a Bill, Petition, Motion or other Business before Parliament or a Committee shall be treated as a fresh reference to that Committee.
4. The resolution of Parliament referred to in sub rule (2) shall be passed in the second sitting of the first session of Parliament. 5. Business reinstated shall be handled and completed in the first session of Parliament.
My guidance on that matter is as follows; 1. Business of the 10th Parliament that remained incomplete, lapsed when the term of the Tenth Parliament came to an end.
2. Any member (or indeed Government) who is desirous of having the business of the Tenth Parliament that was not completed by the end of that Parliament, should have that business reintroduced in the House and that business shall begin afresh.
For example, in case of; a. Government Bills, the Bill should be published, reprinted and reintroduced in Parliament in accordance with rule 128 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.
(b). Private Members Bills, the Member should proceed under rule 122 of the Rules of Procedure.
c. Bills that were passed by the 10th Parliament & are pending Presidential assent; if that Bill is returned by President in accordance with article 91 of the Constitution but outside the term of Parliament that passed that Bill, that Bill is also considered Business that lapsed and should be considered as indicates in (a) or (b) above.
The Committee on Rules and Discipline should look at this matter again and plug those loopholes that we are now confronted with. Rules 234 and 235 are problematic and it is my guidance that the committee is seized with this matter and at an appropriate time report to this House.
I invite the Hon Attorney General to closely scrutinize article 91 of the Constitution together with the Acts of Parliament Act in order to propose a harmonization in processes in regard to assent and the exercise of the President’s veto on bills as passed by Parliament.
With this guidance, I expect that Members shall continue to embrace the business of the House with enthusiasm and execute your roles with efficiency and effectiveness expected of us as MPs and urge the executive to introduce business as laid out in the Gov’t Legislative Agenda.