Anita Among, who is the Speaker of Parliament, has told all committee chairs to send her lists of MPs’ attendance. Her office will then send warning letters to those who don’t show up.
During the morning session of Parliament on Tuesday, one member said that she had already checked the plenary register and asked committee chairpersons to bring their attendance lists to a meeting.
Among other things, “Government Chief Whip, Whip of the Opposition, you have a lot of work to do,” he warned. “Members are not attending the House; members are not attending committees… We are forced to give you warning letters… because we have talked about this each and every day. We are using taxpayers’ money, but you are not in the constituency, not in the house… So where are you? ”
She said that it was time for Parliament’s presiding officers to take action in order to solve the issue of absenteeism.
They encouraged MPs to continue to ensure that their attendance at plenary sittings and committees is captured on the biometric system and attendance book, respectively, to enable a clear assessment.
The Speaker’s communication follows an earlier warning this month by her Deputy, Thomas Tayebwa, to MPs and Ministers who do not attend plenary sittings. Tayebwa then said that any MP who missed 15 consecutive sittings of parliament was to lose their seat.
“You are all supposed to attend parliament, whether you are a minister, a Member of Parliament, or an ex-officio minister. “We have agreed that all members must attend, and if you miss 15 consecutive times, you risk losing your seat,” Taiyebwa then said.
He added that MPs should not use the excuse of COVID-19 since parliament is now fully open and all MPs are expected to attend and clock in to register their presence. Tayebwa told MPs that the presiding officers of the House were to begin picking the registration list for review and action.
In response to the message from the House presiding officer, Solomon Silwany, an MP from Bukooli Central, said that he liked the idea of taking steps to make sure MPs showed up to meetings.
But the Parliamentary Commissioner asked for leniency, saying that MPs are sometimes late to plenary sessions because they have to deal with other business.
But, Speaker Among said that the Commissioner should have been the last person to make such a statement.
“You can only be seen to perform if you are in the House, constituency, or at committee level, but if you are not seen anywhere…” Not even in the precincts of parliament… So where are you? “I wondered aloud. “Do you want me to fail because you are failing? I am never going to allow (us)to fail. We will not allow failure as presiding officer because you want to have that laxity in you.
Asuman Basalirwa of the Bugiri Municipality said that, when it came to the issue of attendance and pending sanctions, it was important for the presiding officer to explain why MPs used to have to attend plenary sessions in shifts and others online.
Parliament decided last year that MPs should come to meetings in groups of 100. This is one of the Standard Operating Procedures for the COVID-19 pandemic and is meant to keep people from getting too close to each other.
Political Party Whips were then required to select MPs to attend plenary in shifts while others followed proceedings on Zoom. There are 529 MPs in the Eleventh Parliament, and they can’t all fit into the Chambers at the same time.
Basalirwa wondered whether this was reversed and an official communication made to MPs to enable all of them to attend. He also wondered if the attendance register would include people who have been attending plenary sessions online.
Among other things, the requirement to have members sit in shifts of 100 was lifted last week by the Deputy Speaker. She also said that people who want to watch a session from home must let the Speaker and Clerk of Parliament know 12 hours in advance.
Allan Mayanja, the Nakaseke Central MP, said that they are faced with the challenge of standing committees and sectoral committees holding meetings on the same day and time. He said that this makes it difficult for them to attend the different committees on which they are designated.
She did say, though, that her office had written to the heads of the different committees to get them to schedule their meetings at the same time.
The Government Chief Whip, Denis Hamson Obua, promised to make sure that MPs show up to parliament sessions and to follow orders about “whipping” ministers to make sure they are in plenary.