Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah has put to rest the issue of prior Parliaments’ expired businesses, finding that they cannot be recovered by successive Houses.
Oulanyah’s decision puts an end to the uncertainty surrounding legislation that either did not receive President Museveni’s approval as needed by Article 91 of the Constitution or was not voted into law by the 10th Parliament before it adjourned.
“Any Member or indeed the administration who wishes to have the business of the 10th Parliament revived…should have the business of the 10th Parliament returned to the House and the business shall commence afresh,” he stated.
A Bill, petition, or other business or a Committee normally lapses with the term of Parliament, according to Rule 235(1) of the Rules of Procedure.
Rule 235(2) establishes an exception that allows the resumption of such business with a Parliamentary resolution, but only under certain conditions.
For example, the reintroduced business will be treated as a new referral to the Committee, and a resolution [to reinstate the business] will be introduced at the second sitting of the next Parliament’s first session.
Furthermore, any reinstated business must be dealt and resolved during the first session.
Bills passed in the 10th Parliament and pending presidential assent that were returned by the President but outside the period of the Parliament in which they were passed are also judged to have lapsed, according to Oulanyah.
He said, “In the case of a government Bill, the Bill should be republished and reintroduced in Parliament in accordance with Rule 128 of our Rules of Procedure.”
On the President’s consent to Bills, Oulanyah ordered the Attorney General to look into the possibility of harmonizing article 91 of the Constitution, which deals with the return of Bills delivered to the President for assent, with the Acts of Parliament Act’s provisions.
The challenge, according to Oulanyah, is determining how long the President has to give his consent to bills passed under Article 91 of the Constitution, or return them to Parliament for reconsideration.
“The provisions of the Acts of Parliament Act and Article 91 of the Constitution need to be reviewed, and the reason is simple: while we can always determine when the Bill has left Parliament…we can never determine when the President actually receives it, and yet the time begins to run when we transmit…the 30 days,” he said.
Like in other Commonwealth jurisdictions, Oulanyah said an amendment is needed to ensure certainty on the date the President received a Bill, most likely by incorporating the idea of having the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Clerk to Parliament physically present the passed laws to the President so that the 30-day countdown can be properly followed.
Midterm access to the National Social Security Fund, which was included in a widely followed modification to the NSSF Act, will now have to be reintroduced.
The Constitution Amendment Act of 2019, which attempted to change the 1995 Constitution substantially and had gone through all of the necessary procedures and was only awaiting voting, will likewise have to be returned.
David Bahati, the State Minister for Trade, said the guidance brought “finality and clarity” to the subject of preserved businesses.
Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, Kira Municipality MP, acknowledged the advice, but added that the enterprises that had been lost, such as the NSSF Act, were important to the public and should be restored as quickly as possible.
“Under your leadership, we are in difficulties because there are numerous things that the previous Parliament completed near the close…
One of them is the NSSF Bill; I can’t tell you how many people have phoned me and said they want to go and take advantage of the mid-term access,” Ssemujju said.
The instruction has no exceptions, according to Oulanyah, and Parliament must obey the word and spirit of the legislation.
“We can’t operate outside the Rules of Procedure, the Acts of Parliament Act, or the Constitution…so, as I’ve always maintained, we need to do things properly now,” he stated.