Electronic biometric scheme to track absent Ugandan MPs

Parliament urged the government to expedite the process of tabling electoral reforms as lack of quorum derails debates.

Electronic biometric scheme to track absent Ugandan MPs
World Bulletin/News Desk
 Ugandan Parliament Speaker Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga on Thursday admitted that the lack of quorum had derailed debate on many crucial bills in the house.

"We have suffered from a lack of quorum quite a number of times," Kadaga told an end-of-year press conference.

To address the problem, parliament is now working on a biometric electronic device with which MPs will be able to clock in and out of assembly and committee sessions.

"We expect to introduce electronic biometric registration in the house and the committees during the next session," said the speaker.

"It will require you to clock in and clock out so that we know whether you arrived at 3pm and left at 3:05pm," she added.

The Ugandan parliament contains a total of 378 MPs.

However, there are days when fewer than 40 legislators have shown up to take part in assembly debates.

In November, Kadaga cited a number of tricks used by legislators to make quick money, which included signing an attendance register even when dodging plenary sessions.

She lamented that some MPs had the habit of backdating their signatures to days when they were not in parliament.

Parliament generally convenes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Kadaga advised both the cabinet and public to use Mondays, Fridays and weekends if they wished to engage lawmakers.

"Give us time to do our work," she appealed.

Ugandan lawmakers enjoy substantial financial packages that they receive in the form of allowances, including mileage facilitation of 4.5 million Ugandan shillings, constituency facilitation of 3.2 million shillings, and a monthly salary of 2.6 million shillings – among other siting allowances which together amount to between 15 and 20 million shillings (between $5,395 and $7,194) per sitting MP.

-Electoral reforms-

Speaker Kadaga, meanwhile, urged the government to expedite the process of tabling electoral reforms.

"I had wanted those reforms to be tabled during the last session. Now the year has gone, so that will be one of our demands: that they act expeditiously in the interest of the country," she told reporters.

Kadaga regretted that the government had failed to present the electoral reforms to parliament.

"I don't know how big the reforms are going to be, so I can't speculate on how much we shall require," the speaker said.

"But if they are brought in the third sitting early enough, maybe we could finish them by the middle or end of May," she added. "We are just waiting for the presentation."

Appearing before parliament one month ago, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafire promised that the proposed electoral reforms would be sent to parliament before December 19.

The electoral reforms are needed to guide the country in the run-up to 2016 general elections.

Opposition and civil society activists have, since the beginning of the year, demanded – and drafted – a raft of electoral reforms to provide political parties with a level playing field.

Some of the reforms include the creation of an independent electoral commission, the reinstatement of presidential term limits lifted in 2005, and cancelling the army's ten-member parliamentary quota.

Previously, a president was only allowed to have two five-year presidential terms.

Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni has been in power since 1986.

The opposition and civil society also demand an end to the deployment of the military during elections.

They have long argued that the deployment of troops intimidated voters, asking that only police be responsible for maintaining law and order during polling.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Aralık 2014, 19:04