Kampala, Uganda – Speaker of Parliament, Anita Annet Among, expressed her frustration and adjourned the parliamentary session prematurely due to the absence of ministers, which she saw as a lack of discipline and duty in addressing the country’s pressing service delivery challenges.
When Speaker Among arrived at the House at precisely 2 pm, she found the front bench empty. After the opening prayers, she expressed her anger, questioning why well-paid ministers were not present. She emphasized that if ministers are meant to represent the Executive, they should be in the front bench, and their absence wastes the time of Members of Parliament who are eager for responses.
Speaker Among stated, “I am uncertain if we can continue like this. I believe I need to discuss this matter with the Executive. If this House is intended only for Members of Parliament, then let us be informed.” She further added, “We have 83 ministers, so I want to first meet with the Executive to address this matter. We are adjourning the House until tomorrow [today].”
According to Rule 50(1) of the Parliament Rules of Procedure, ministers are required to attend parliamentary sessions to respond to questions, a crucial aspect of the accountability mechanism established by the separation of powers doctrine. The 1995 Constitution divides government into three branches: the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary, each with distinct powers to ensure citizen well-being and prevent corruption or dictatorship.
Speaker Among expressed disappointment that none of the 83 ministers appeared to respond to the day’s inquiries, despite repeated calls for their attendance.
Both Speaker Among and her deputy, Thomas Tayebwa, have consistently cautioned ministers and MPs against avoiding parliamentary proceedings. Speaker Among had previously promised to employ biometrics to monitor legislators’ attendance and performance, as well as to publish the attendance records and performance of the last session to combat absenteeism.
Historically, absenteeism has been an ongoing problem in Parliament, with party whips responsible for ensuring members’ attendance.
Speaking to local media shortly after Speaker Among adjourned the plenary session, the Minister for Defence and Veterinary Affairs, Mr. Vincent Ssempijja, attributed his late arrival to traffic congestion. He emphasized that ministers are subordinate to Parliament’s authority and strive to be punctual, but in his case, traffic was an unavoidable issue.
Similarly, the State Minister of Defence and Veterinary Affairs, Mr. Huda Oleru, mentioned that the heavy workload on ministers sometimes causes delays in their attendance. He expressed regret about the House’s adjournment and pledged to improve.
Mr. Jonathan Ebwalu, the Soroti West legislator, expressed disappointment over taxpayers’ money being spent while ministers were absent from processing government work. He criticized the Cabinet’s competence and urged President Museveni to take swift action.