Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, has spoken out on lapsed businesses of previous Parliaments, ruling that they cannot be retrieved by subsequent Houses.
“Business of the 10th Parliament that remained incomplete lapsed with the end of the 10th Parliament; any Member or indeed the government who is desirous of having the business of the 10th Parliament revived…should have the business reintroduced to the House and the business shall begin afresh,” he said.
Bills that will now have to be reintroduced include the midterm access to the National Social Security Fund, contained in a widely followed amendment to the NSSF Act.
Kira Municipality MP, Hon Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda accepted the guidance, adding that notwithstanding, the businesses lost like the NSSF Act are so dear to the public and should be reinstated soon.
“By your guidance, we are in trouble because there are many things that have been completed by the last Parliament towards the end…one of them is the NSSF Bill; I don’t know how many people have called me and they are waiting to go and benefit from the mid-term access,” said Ssemujju.
In August, President Museveni agreed to the workers’ mid-term access to their savings with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) after an intense debate between the top management of the Fund and Workers’ representatives.
Museveni also directed the Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development Betty Amongi to make changes to the Bill and return it for consent.
Following the recent outbreak of COVID-19 and it’s impacts on the economy, there have growing calls for the Fund (NSSF) to pay it’s members 20% of their accumulated balances.
However, Oulanyah’s guidance means the entire Bill will have to be reintroduced in Parliament for fresh deliberations, delaying NSSF members mid-term access to their savings.
Oulanyah said the guidance has no exception, and said Parliament has to follow the letter and spirit of the law.
“We cannot operate outside the Rules of Procedure, outside the Acts of Parliament Act, outside the Constitution…so we need now to do things right like I have always said,” he said.
Oulanyah’s ruling ended uncertainties surrounding legislations that were either not assented to by President Museveni as required under article 91 of the Constitution or not passed into law by the 10th Parliament before its end.
Ordinarily under Rule 235(1) of the Rules of Procedure, a Bill, petition, or other business or a Committee lapses with the term of Parliament.
Rule 235(2) creates an exception that allows reinstatement of such business with the resolution of Parliament, but laced with preconditions.
For instance, the said reintroduced business shall be treated as a fresh reference to the Committee, and such resolution [to reinstate the business] should be introduced during the second sitting of the first session of the new Parliament.
Additionally, such reinstated business must be handled and disposed of within the first session.
Oulanyah additionally ruled that Bills passed in the 10th Parliament and awaiting presidential assent, and happens to have been returned by the President but outside the term of the Parliament in which that law was passed, is also deemed to have lapsed.
“In case of a government Bill, the Bill should be republished and reintroduced in Parliament in accordance with Rule 128 of our Rules of Procedure,” he added.
On assent to Bills passed by the President, Oulanyah asked the Attorney General to explore possibilities of harmonizing article 91 of the Constitution relating to return of Bills sent to the President for assent with the provisions of the Acts of Parliament Act.
The difficulty, observed Oulanyah, lies in tracing the 30 days within which the President has to assent to Bills passed as required under article 91 of the Constitution, or alternatively return it to Parliament for reconsideration.
“There is need to review the provisions of the Acts of Parliament Act and article 91 of the Constitution and the reason is simple; while it is certain for us to know when the Bill has left Parliament…we can never determine when the President actually receives it and yet the time starts running when we transmit…the 30 days,” he said.
Like is the case in other Commonwealth jurisdictions, Oulanyah said an amendment has to be made to ensure certainty on the date the President actually received a Bill, probably with slotting in the idea of having the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Clerk to Parliament physically present the copies of the passed laws to the President so that the countdown to the 30 days can be properly followed.