Stephen Hippo Twebaze, a researcher on African parliaments has said there is a drastic decline in the quality of work by the Ugandan parliament.
According to Twebaze, the decline traces back to the introduction of political parties, as well as the aimless appointments of unmerited legislators to key committees.
He says the disregard of merit and competence are the reasons why parliament work is declining since 2005 when political parties were introduced.
“You can not tell me that a primary school teacher in Karamoja can become a chairperson of Public Accounts Committee (PAC) when they have been teaching SST, no,” he said.
He says the the introduction of political parties further worsened the situation as parties now appoint based on royalty and not competence.
“If you don’t have leadership in the committee that has an idea of what they are doing, then you lose the bigger picture.”
The changes in Parliamentary leadership made by the main opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) last week have kicked off a storm.
One of the sources of criticism is the caliber of MPs selected to occupy these positions. The biggest victim of this criticism is Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa who was appointed to chair the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), who, critiques say is not fit to steer such a technical committee.
Munyagwa replaces Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu, a lawyer by profession who has been in Parliament for 17 years.
Former Kajara county legislator Stephen Tashobya who chaired the legal and parliamentary affairs committee for over 8 years says the committee chairperson plays a role similar to that of the speaker.
Rule7 of the rules of procedure provides for the speaker’s mandate like that of presiding over the house, preserve order in decorum, decide questions on order in practice and invite submissions from members, something Tashobya holds is requirement for committee heads as well.
“The chairperson of the committee of more less a mini speaker with responsibilities of presiding over committee business, because the work of the committee is to scrutinise in detail the work assigned to them by main house.”
He says although all members of parliament qualify to chair committees, people with relevant qualifications are better placed to preside over. He said some of the committees require professional competence.
“For example on the finance committee or Public Accounts Committee, you should have some reasonable understanding of the field.”