THE African Leadership Institute (AFLI) was in the news recently after it released a scorecard about the performance of Members of Parliament (MPs).
But was that information, in the form it was presented, really the vital tool it was billed to be? As an â€˜information toolâ€™, the scorecard was supposed to be seen as a mechanism for making MPs responsive as well as accountable.
It was also intended to enable citizens to participate actively and responsibly in selecting their representatives and holding them accountable. These aims are noble.
They are about democracy building as well as promoting local and national development.
Following AFLIâ€™s publication of the scorecard, there were different reactions which were expressed through the media. I happen to be among those who did not laud AFLI for their work! This is why any discussion of the performance of MPs that does not take into account the ecology of local politics (excessive demands and ethnicity) which often renders their performance difficult, subjects itself to serious judgment of failure.
An MP who ignores known ecological factors will, most probably, face the wrath of the ballot box.
In seeking to assess the performance of MPs, AFLI did not consider the environment in which MPs work. This was a major flaw in their work.
A traditional view is that MPs are only legislators and representatives. However, their roles go beyond that. As well as these roles, MPs are quite often involved in settlement of disputes which are involving their constituents.
They pay frequent visits to different offices in the land where they hope to clinch project-related deals for their constituencies. MPs monitor government programmes. This is a serious, but little-mentioned role which they play. One of the most important roles MPs play is mobilising citizens on a range of social, economic and political issues.
MPsâ€™ offices are sometimes like beehives. One finds them teeming with constituents who come to be assisted in one way or another.
Logically, any evaluation of MPs which ignores these other roles renders itself incomplete.
AFLI only considered a partial picture of the many roles of an MP. The truth is that MPsâ€™ roles are as many as they are complex.
It is this complexity which fundamentally influences the ability of many MPs to perform well.
In the scorecard, AFLI put more emphasis on quantitative aspects of the work of MPs and less attention on their qualitative work! Any failure to balance these two vital facets of the MPsâ€™ complex work as AFLI did leaves even well- intentioned work wanting.
A serious student of the MPsâ€™ performance, in and out of Parliament, will know that to become a deeply qualitative MP requires two main attributes namely, long life experience and specific skills and expertise in any given field.
It is a travesty of professional research when one chooses to assess MPs basing on how often, for example, they debate on the floor of the house or even visit their constituencies.
If AFLI is going to arrogate itself the task of, competently and with alacrity, assessing MPsâ€™ performance, it should have a firm grip and understanding of the paraphernalia of responsibilities that MPs have. More than that, however, it should show an appreciation of the qualitative and quantitative nuances of MPsâ€™ work before it publishes its information. Or else, AFLI might easily be accused of finding it easier to be critical of MPs than being correct over their performance.
Demonstrating understanding of the different roles of MPs would qualify the AFLI to undertake the honourable task of assessing them. It would also qualify them to make creditable contribution towards the democratic development of Uganda.
In its self-assigned role to assess MPsâ€™ performance, AFLI also failed to show that it is aware that there are fundamental work-related differences, of both qualitative and quantitative nature between back bench MPs and the ones that double as ministers. Most accurate evaluation would take serious account of this fact.
If attendance of parliament and council meetings as well as frequency of visits to constituencies was found to be less with MPs, it is generally worse with MPs who are at the same time Ministers.
Read this. Sam Kutesa who is Ugandaâ€™s foreign affairs minister was given an â€˜Fâ€™ . This cannot be sensible to those who know that the ministerâ€™s schedule often keeps him out of the country for months.
If I may ask AFLI, how will such grading of the minister help the voter in Sembabule?
Finally, AFLIâ€™s effort has brought to the fore two important issues. First, there is an urgent need by Parliament to increase citizensâ€™ awareness of the various roles of MPs.
Many Ugandans have no clue about what MPs do! This is not good for our democracy. Second, AFLI needs to carefully as well as deeply craft a most accurate way to assess MPsâ€™ performance.
Their current effort falls way, short of what would stand as a test of credibility and objectivity. Instead, it has mainly served to excite the public without contributing to Ugandaâ€™s democratic development.
If AFLI could address the issue about ministersâ€™ and MPsâ€™ performance in a more comprehensive and accurate way, it would have served the country better. If this task is too big for them, Ugandans who are interested in deepening democracy and have requisite skills in crafting a wholesome evaluation should come to their aid.
Minister of Ethics and Integrity
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MPs scorecard was unfair to ministers