In Defence of Deputy Speaker Oulanyah [opinion]

Deputy Speaker Jacob L’okori Oulanyah has kicked off another debate – this time round, accusing the very institution he is presiding over of lacking in quality.

Oulanyah says MPs do not research, the reason quality of debate in the House has gone down, compared for example to the 1960s and to the sixth Parliament (1996-2001). That the deputy speaker, the media reported, is not even reading the Hansard (the official recording of parliamentary proceedings).

Let me state right from the beginning that I entirely agree with Oulanyah and the country should be grateful he has offered it an opportunity to reassess and reexamine its leaders. There are colleagues at Parliament who think Oulanyah should not have been the one to make the competence of MPs or lack of it a subject of discussion in the media.

Other commentators think Oulanyah is part of the problem and, therefore, should shut up. Forgive me for disagreeing with all of them. First, I am a firm believer in freedom of expression. I think Rt Hon Jacob Oulanyah has every right to comment about MPs or any other subject. In fact, just very recently, his boss Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga accused MPs of not having table manners.

She spoke of an MP who carried an overflowing plate during a trip with President Museveni and, I think, another who swallowed a big piece of meat and needed inducement from a presidential guard to vomit it! I am interested in debating the facts in Oulanyah’s media outbursts. I don’t think MPs are beyond scrutiny and, in fact, the best person to judge us is the speaker.You don’t overcome mediocrity by shielding it from the public eye.

The size of Parliament, both MPs and staff, has grown, and so has its budget. Parliament is allocated Shs 237 billion of taxpayers’ money every year, which comes to something like Shs 649 million every day. This money is not a gift but a reward for work. We, MPs, are some of the best – paid public servants. Of course the Jennifer Musisis of KCCA, with over Shs 40 million a month, are the highest – paid.

What is the return on the public investment into Parliament? The quality of debate, research and ultimately the laws that we pass must, therefore, be discussed, and I don’t care in which forum.

Jacob Oulanyah, by the way, was one of the best MPs in the Seventh Parliament. I have said so, and want to repeat, that his contribution on the illegal sale of Uganda Commercial bank remains monumental. The man came literally with a wheelbarrowfull of documents. He spread them on the bench and dissected them, one by one. At the end of his presentation, many MPs had even lost the appetite to speak, because he had spoken it all.

I think it was Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi in the chair. At that time, MPs were allotted enough time. I think Oulanyah spoke for over 30 minutes. These days we speak for two or three minutes. And by the way, the lack of quality is in the debate, but not among all MPs. This country should remember the two-day oil debate.

I don’t think anyone can belittle Theodore Ssekikubo, Abdu Katuntu, Wilfred Niwagaba and many other MPs who opened their mouth during this debate. Of course we give credit to people such as Godber Tumushabe of Acode who helped us with research.

Because of the quality of research, the oil debate was the most captivating one. But you all saw what consequently happened. Ssekikubo, Nsereko, Tinkasimire and Niwagaba were expelled from NRM. Cerinah Nebanda died controversially, following the oil debate. Outspoken NRM MPs were treated like fugitives, before some were eventually offloaded. The political environment in the country has been fouled. We are under persona rule.

Speaker Kadaga has done her best to resurrect the independence and integrity of Parliament, but the cost is increasingly becoming unbearable. At one time, the visionary summoned his generals and they hatched a plan to remove her. They agreed to collectively accuse her of unconstitutional behaviuor and then swiftly move against her.

The threats against those seeking to do the right things are real. There is no reward for quality. Instead, quality is condemned. The other day Simon Kasyate, formerly a journalist with The Monitor and now with Eskom, told us that almost all workers there were former employees of Uganda Electricity Board (UEB). Just because the supervisor is a professional from South Africa, their output has skyrocketed.

This is what the public service is lacking. There is absolutely no leadership, no supervision andor motivation. The solution, therefore, lies in Mzee’s retirement.

The author is Kyadondo East MP.

Source : The Observer

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