KAMPALA – The Parliamentary Rules and Privileges Committee has recommended for the status quo be maintained to allow committee chairpersons belong to two committees as provided in rule 154(3), whereby each member belongs to not more than two committees; one is a sectoral committee and the other a standing committee.
In their report that is set to be tabled and debated before Parliament, the rules Committee has additionally recommended to have chairpersons and Deputy chairpersons remain ex-officio members of the business committee (rule 173(2)) and budget committee (rule 170(2)).
The proposal to have chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of committees belong to one committee each either a standing or sectoral committee was proposed by both the Government Chief Whip and the Chief Opposition Whip and under this arrangement, chairpersons and ordinary Members would be members on a rotational basis of one year to one committee at a time, thereby switching between standing and sectoral committees with each successive session of Parliament.
This proposal was conceived to be the solution to the persistent challenge of the clash of activities of the Sectoral committee to which a Member belongs with those of the Standing committee.
Yet still, the proposal was also envisaged that it would enhance specialization and its benefits; whereby Parliament could leverage by having Members focus on the areas in which they have and would utilize their best competencies.
During the consideration of the matter, Legislators were largely desirous of maintaining the status quo, where each Member belongs to two committees, one standing and one sectoral and since budget matters are handled in sectoral committees, it was important that each Member belonged to a sectoral committee throughout their stay in Parliament.
The supporters of the status quo further argued that restricting the Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons to belong to only the committee where they hold a leadership role, would defeat the spirit of the delegation, power-sharing and grooming leaders within a committee.
The committee considered the option of synchronizing the activities particularly meetings of sectoral and standing committees, to avoid a clash of programs where one type of committee could sit from 8:00 am to 10:30 am (of the sitting days, usually, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays), while the other type of committee would sit from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm but the option seemed difficult to implement because of challenges in keeping time strictly.
However, some MPs on the Rules Committee argued that while the attendance of Chairpersons is generally much better in the committees where they perform leadership roles than where they participate as ordinary members, their attendance as ordinary members is generally not significantly worse than that of other ordinary members, except in a few cases.
The committee argued that the requirement for each member to belong both to a sectoral committee and a standing committee may remain a “necessary evil” given that there are other factors that contribute to poor participation of Members in committees, aside from the divided loyalties between sectoral and standing committees.
In its conclusion, the Committee argued that effective participation of Members in committee activities may have to be enhanced through invoking more effective measures to deter and punish absenteeism as well as amend the Rules of Procedure to provide for more effective measures to deter and punish absenteeism from committees.