Courtesy dictates that I should congratulate you upon winning the just-concluded elections. For most of you, it symbolizes the trust that your constituents have in you and it’s now your patriotic duty never to betray that trust.
Honourable Members, you will agree with me that modern constitutions on the African Continent require that the authority to exercise State power be conditional on the sustained trust of the people. As you should be aware, the first article in our Constitution provides for sovereignty of the people and further emphasizes that all authority in the State emanates from the people of Uganda.
In 2012, the Directorate of Social Protection in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development did expenditure review for Uganda and revealed that about 67% of Ugandans are either poor or highly vulnerable to poverty. According to the 2013/14 Uganda National Panel Survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBoS), at least 18% of Ugandans are chronically poor and that a substantial population (31%) is vulnerable to poverty. The long and short of these statistics is that a Member of Parliament in Uganda largely represents poor people. Little wonder, most of them have turned into providers for their constituents in terms of school fees, burial arrangements, fundraising, marriages, etc.
Whereas this “generosity” is welcome, we all know that it’s not sustainable. In my view, this partly contributes to the high turnover in parliament–about 60% of you are new.
Parliament largely has three roles; legislation, oversight and resource appropriation. As legislators, I expect you to push for pro-people laws. A good example is the National Legal Aid Bill and Policy which have been shelved for over four years now. Such a law will go a long way in helping guide the provision of free legal services by the state—a very key ingredient in the democratization of this country and reduction of poverty. Similarly, Oversight on the effectiveness of government programmes is one of the most important ways Parliament can support the fight against poverty. Most of these well-intended projects have been literally eaten by some people and they go unpunished. Please ensure that all supplementary budget requests advance the public interest. Through your mandate of appropriating resources, please ensure that sectors that touch the welfare of the poorest of the poor are prioritized-these are your voters.
Lastly, the Constitution vests you with the power to make laws on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda—exercise this power appropriately.
Note: The article was originally published in the Daily Monitor of Wednesday May 18th, 2016. See http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Letters/Open-letter-to-new-legislators/-/806314/3207486/-/27lj39z/-/index.html