PARLIAMENT this week plans to hold a special session to discuss continued absenteeism of the members from plenary and committee meetings, according to the deputy Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga.
Absenteeism has been one of the major problems undermining Parliamentâ€™s performance.
Early this year, the Speaker Edward Ssekandi indicated that the rules would be changed in order to institute penalties for the members who dodge committee meetings. Ssekandi was concerned that committees werenâ€™t promptly handling the work assigned to them because of members dodging meetings.
It is scandalous for MPs to abandon their parliamentary work and yet they are generously remunerated, compared to the rest of public servants.
The failure of the MPs to attend Plenary and committee sittings, not only undermines the performance of Parliament as an institution, but also affects the Governmentâ€™s ability to deliver services expeditiously. The tax-payer is the loser. In effect it is a form of corruption for MPs to be paid when they have not done any work.
It is unnecessary for Parliament to hold a special session to discuss absenteeism. Is it logical for the MPs to discuss whether they should do work that they were elected and are handsomely paid to do? The MPs who abscond from Parliament must be brought to order in accordance with the rules of Parliament.
The underlying problem, as a matter of fact, is the failure by the Parliamentâ€™s leadership to enforce the rules.
The rules categorically establishes parliamentary Whips (government, opposition and political party whips) solely charged with ensuring that MPs attend proceedings. Rules require members to seek the Speakerâ€™s written consent to be absent from parliamentary proceedings. This is routinely flouted.
Rules further provide for sanctions, though these may not be sufficiently stringent.
What is needed, therefore, is for the Speaker and the parliamentâ€™s Whips to rigorously enforce the rules and crack the whip against the errant members. Take the bull by its horns!