Parliament resumes; Mayor Lukwago, GMO Bill on agenda

Parliament resumes; Mayor Lukwago, GMO Bill on agenda
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Parliament is expected to handle 22 bills and 28 petitions currently before the house as it resumes on Tuesday January 9th.

The House took a Christmas break on December 20 shortly after the passing of the Constitutional (Amendment) Act 2017 which, among others, removed presidential age limits, reinstated term limits and extended the term of office of parliament and local councils from five to seven years.

President Yoweri Museveni assented to the piece of legislation seven days later.

Some of the bills to be considered as Parliament returns are the Anti-counterfeiting Goods Bill, 2015 and the Uganda National Health Laboratory Services Bill, 2016.

Other bills under consideration are the Mental health bill 2014, KCCA (Amendment) bill 2015, the Data Protection and Privacy bill 2015, the Human Rights Enforcement Bill 2015, the Sexual Offences bill 2015, the Sugar Bill 2016 and the Investment Code 2017 among others.

The list also has the Marriage Bill 2009, the Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014, the Minimum Wages Bill 2015, and the Uganda Forestry Association bill 2010.

The KCCA (Amendment) bill 2015 and the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012 are expected to take centre stage.

The KCCA bill seeks to check the power of the Lord Mayor.  Clause 5(4) of the bill seeks to provide for the election of the Lord Mayor from within the Council, but broadly reasserts the Power of the Authority to the central Government by putting more powers in the minister.

The bill was first read in January last year and is currently before the presidential affairs committee. There is unending bickering between the Political wing of KCCA led by Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and the technical wing led by the Executive Director Jennifer Musisi. Kampala Minister Beti Kamya, who before joining cabinet sides with Lukwago, now appears to side with the technical wing.

Meanwhile last year President Museveni rejected to sign the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill 2012, which seeks to provide a regulatory framework for safe development and application of biotechnology, research, development, and release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Although Parliament had passed the bill, President Museveni returned it seeking clarification on the title, patent rights of indigenous farmers, and sanctions for scientists who mix GMOs with indigenous crops and animals. The MPs hope to have this debated.  Legislators hope that these will be debated appropriately.

Parliament is also expected to start on the annual budgetary process as required by the Public Finance Act 2015. This year’s budget according to the budget framework paper for 2018/2019 is projected at 29.2 trillion shillings. Of this, works and transport sector is to take 4.7 trillion while 2.7 trillion is to go for debt interest payment. Energy and mineral development is to be allocated 2.5 trillion shillings.

Chris Obore, the Director Communications at Parliament, says the main business will be the budget. He says other business will be determined by the Speaker, as the rest of the items keep changing. He says Parliament will also address concerns raised by the President on the Biotechnology bill.

Herbert Ariko, Soroti Municipality MP, says the Biotechnology bill should not be rushed by Parliament. He hopes that it will be “clearly scrutinized” as one of Parliament’s core areas this year. He says that foods now days get spoilt quickly since they are mixed with GMOs.

Ariko says the KCCA (Amendment) bill 2015 debate should be made in a way that will clearly solve the chaos in KCCA and not focus on giving Government more powers.

Alex Byarugaba, the Isingiro South MP, says they will start with the budget framework paper since it is one of the principal issues to tackle. He also says the GMO bill which had a lot of faults will be looked at. He says in each sector several things have been lined up.

Meanwhile Parliament will also handle several reports like that on Anti-counterfeiting goods bill, 2015 which is before the committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry. Other reports include one on Equal Opportunities, the Ramifications of the influx of foreigners engaged in petty trade, and on the economic space and livelihoods of citizens.

The House took a Christmas break on December 20 shortly after the passing of the Constitutional (Amendment) Act 2017 which, among others, removed presidential age limits, reinstated term limits and extended the term of office of parliament and local councils from five to seven years.

The list also has the Public Accounts committee report on the acquisition and utilisation of a loan of 200 million Dollars from the PTA bank among others.

For the assignments before the committee, the scrutiny of the statements on mandatory vehicle inspection by SGS is ready for debate. Status of the procurement of land to resettle landslide victims in Mt Elgon region in Bulambuli is also among those for consideration.

Petitions under consideration include one by Dott Services against the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) which is currently before the committee on Commissions and State Enterprises (COSASE). The petition on the Deplorable staffing levels at Bugungu secondary school under the Ministry of Education and Sports and another petition regarding the eviction of vendors from Park Yard Market are also lined up.

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