By Moses Mulondo & John Odyek
KAMPALA - Confusion engulfed Parliament on Tuesday, prompting the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to prematurely halt voting on clause 9 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012.
The vote was intended to change the provisions of the clause to give powers to the ministers to grant and license oil companies.
The provision earlier passed by Parliament grants these powers to the Petroleum Authority to be created when the Bill is enacted. Disagreements over the contentious clause have delayed the passing and enactment of the Bill
Kadaga’s decision to halt voting drew an angry reaction from the Cabinet members who, in an unprecedented manner, openly criticised her.
This was the third time voting aborted. Last week, Parliament failed to vote on the clause after MPs became rowdy, forcing Kadaga to unceremoniously adjourn the House. Before that, voting had aborted after a section of MPs walked out, denying the House quorum.
When the House reconvened on Tuesday, Kadaga put the matter to vote again, following a brief, but heated argument and a 15-minute suspension of the proceedings.
As the voting went on, several MPs, who included the leader of the opposition in Parliament, Nathan Nandala Mafabi, Odonga Otto (FDC) Abdu Katuntu (FDC) Mohammed Nsereko (NRM) and Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM), went to Kadaga to object to the voting.
Kadaga asked the MPs to resume their seats and told energy minister Irene Muloni to make a statement on the progress of the consensus building efforts with those opposed to the change of the clause.
Muloni first hesitated to take the floor but later said: “The last time we were here, I recommitted clause 9 and what was remaining was voting on the matter. I gave clarification to those who had not understood the Government position and I hope the members understood very well.”
The Vice-President, Edward Ssekandi, however, raised a procedural issue saying: “The debate on the matter was closed. Today, you (Speaker) advised that we vote and some of the members have already voted. But while we were in the middle of voting, you opened up the debate. That is unacceptable.”
As matters came to a head, some MPs expressed support for the Speaker and heckled the ministers.
Third Deputy Prime Minister, Gen. Moses Ali then proposed that the House adjourns until Cabinet discusses the outcome of the negotiations with the MPs opposed to the change of clause 9.
Kadaga thanked Ali for the proposal and adjourned debate on the Bill to today [Wednesday].
She also announced that President Yoweri Museveni was scheduled to address Parliament this Friday. However, she did not indicate the issues the President will talk about.