Members of the Ugandan parliament want committee chairpersons elected if parliamentary business is to be handled efficiently and objectively.
Currently, chairpersons of parliamentary committees are appointed by the party leadership. The MPs says that as a result the chairpersons owe allegiance to the party leadership and cannot take decisions that don’t favor their appointing authority.
David Bahati, the Deputy NRM chief whip explains that while appointing committee chairpersons they consider amongst other things someone’s loyalty to the party. The suggestion to have committee chairpersons elected was raised during the amendment of the parliamentary rules of procedure in 2011 but it defeated on the floor of parliament by the majority NRM.
However, some MPs have resurrected the proposal following allegations of incompetence against several committee chairpersons, which has negatively affected parliamentary work. Mariam Nalubega, the Butambala District Woman MP says NRM would not risk having people that are not their puppets chairing critical committees.
She however says there wouldn’t be disagreements if parties had a legitimate procedure for selecting committee chairpersons based on their capabilities instead of party loyality.
Gerald Karuhanga, the Western youth MP also thinks committees would perform better if their leaders were elected as opposed to be selected.
But Julius Maganda, the Samia Bugwe South MP says the problem is not how people are selected to chair the committees but who ultimately is selected. He advises parties to use the authority given to them by the rules of and choose people who have sound knowledge in the sectors they are supposed to head.
He says what should be done is to include a clause in the rules of procedure guiding party whips to designate committee leaders with sufficient experience in the area they are bound to head. Betty Amongi, the Chief Whip Uganda People’s Congress Chief disagrees with the notion of electing saying that all members of parliament are capable of leading any committee. She told Uganda Radio Network that where a member is lacking, training should be extended through capacity building so that everyone is given an opportunity to learn.
She also says that a committee is not just about the chairperson but about the members as well adding that, all members have a duty to offer guidance to their chairpersons. Committee chairpersons are appointed by parties and the ruling NRM appoints chairs for all the committees except the four accountability committees that are given to the opposition.
They are the Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Statutory and State enterprises, committee on Government Assurances and Local Government Accounts committee. Chairpersons of sessional committees are changed after every one year and while those of standing committees serve two and a half years.