Tuesday, August 21, 2012
THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS IN UGANDA
By the Office of the Clerk to Parliament INTRODUCTION The main function of Parliament is to make laws. This function is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda under Article 79, which states that: “79(1) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament shall have power to make laws on any matter for peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda. Article 79 (2) Except as provided in this Constitution, no person or body other than Parliament shall have power to make provisions having the force of law in Uganda except under authority conferred by an Act of Parliament.” BILL A Bill is a proposed law. When passed by Parliament and assented to by the President (or otherwise as provided for in the Constitution) it is referred to as an Act. There are two types of Bills; Government Bills and Private Members’ Bills. GOVERNMENT BILLS These are Bills initiated by Government departments or Ministries and are sponsored by the Government. Each Bill is presented to Parliament by a Minister responsible for the subject matter of that Bill. PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BILL Such Bills conform to restrictions such as the financial matters and derogation from enjoyment of the rights and freedoms as provided under Article 93 and 44 of the Constitution respectively. A Member intending to introduce a Private Members’ Bill is requested to seek leave of the House by way of motion to do so. The proposed Bill is attached to the motion. If the motion is carried, the printing and publication of the Bill in the gazette shall be the responsibility of the Clerk. PROGRESS OF THE BILL Both Government and Private Members’ Bills go through the following stages: BILLS FIRST READING The first reading is the introduction of the Bill to Parliament. At this stage, the Speaker calls out the name of the Member of Parliament in whose name a Bill stands on the Order Paper. The Member moves that the Bill be read the first time and tables the certificate of Financial Implications as required by the Budget Act. The Clerk reads a loud the short title of the Bill. At this stage, there is no debate. The Speaker refers the Bill to an appropriate Committee of parliament, which examines it in detail. BILLS IN COMMITTEE In the Committee, the Minister or the Member responsible for the Bill appears before the Committee to interact with the Committee and or answer any questions that the Committee may raise. Other stakeholders that is, individuals or groups may appear physically before the Committee to present their views or submit written memoranda on the Bill. PETITION ON A BILL IN COMMITTEES Any member of the public dissatisfied with the provision(s) of the Bill may also present a petition to the Speaker of the House before the Bill is read the second time. If the Speaker is satisfied that the Bill will affect the interests of the petitioners, he or she directs that the Bill be committed to a Select Committee. The petitioner may be heard before the Select Committee, either in person or may be represented by an advocate. After its deliberations, the Committee reports its findings on the Bill to the Plenary at the motion for Second Reading of the Bill. The Committee is required to submit its report on the Bill within forty five days from the date the Bill was referred to it. Where a Committee is unable to complete consideration of the Bill within the forty five days, it may seek extra time from Parliament. If the extra time is not granted or if upon expiry of such period the Committee is still not ready, the House proceeds to consider the Bill without the Committee’s input. BILLS SECOND READING At this stage the person in charge of the Bill moves that the “Bill be now read a second time” and may speak to the motion; The Chairperson of the Committee to which the Bill was referred, or a Member designated by the Committee or the Speaker, presents to the House the report from the Committee on the Bill. Debate is held on the merits and principles of the Bill on the basis of the Explanatory Memorandum and the report from the Committee. After the debate, the Speaker puts a question to the motion for second reading, and if adopted, the Clerk reads aloud the short title of the Bill and the Bill is taken as read the second time; it is then committed to the Committee of the whole House under the Bills Committee Stage. The House may, after the second reading, commit the Bill to a Select Committee, which is nominated by the Speaker in consultation with the Government and Opposition Whips. BILLS COMMITTEE STAGE The purpose of this stage is to scrutinize the Bill in detail and discuss any suggested amendments. The Committee of the Whole House considers the Bill clause – by – clause and makes a decision on each clause. After consideration of the Bill by the Committee of the whole House, chaired by the Speaker, the House resumes to receive the report from the Committee of the Whole House. Where a Bill is reported with or without amendment, the report may be adopted immediately or some future time fixed for the purpose. The next stage should be third reading, unless there is a motion for recommittal. RECOMMITTAL After the Committee of the Whole House has reported and the report has been adopted, but before the Bill proceeds to the third reading, a member may move that the Bill be recommitted (taken back to the Committee of the Whole House) either wholly or in respect of a particular clause(s). Where the motion for recommittal is carried, the House goes back to the Committee of the Whole House, chaired by the Speaker, and the Bill or parts thereof (as per motion) are reconsidered. BILLS THIRD READING After the Committee of the Whole House or Select Committee has reported to the House, the House proceeds to the Third Reading of the Bill. At this stage, there is no debate. A final vote is taken and if approved, the Clerk reads a loud the long Title and the Bill is taken to have been passed by parliament. AFTER THE PASSING OF THE BILL After the Bill is passed, the Clerk prepares assent copies which are forwarded to the President. ASSENT BY THE PRESIDENT Presidential Assent is the approval of the Bill by the President and this is signified by the President appending his or her signature on the Bill. Presidential assent is a Constitutional requirement. The President is required within thirty days after a Bill is presented to him/her to assent to the Bill. If he/she does not assent to the Bill, he/she must; Return the Bill to Parliament with a request that the whole Bill or particular provision be reconsidered by Parliament; Parliament reconsiders the Bill and if passed again, it shall be presented for the second time to the Present for assent. Where the same Bill is returned twice, and the Bill is passed for the third time, with the support of at least two-thirds of all Members of Parliament, the Speaker causes a copy of the Bill to be laid before Parliament, and the Bill shall become law without the assent of the President. Notify the Speaker in writing that he/she refuses to assent to the Bill. If the president fails to do any of the acts mentioned above within thirth days, the President is taken to have assented to the Bill and at the expiration of the period, the Speaker causes a copy of the Bill to be laid before Parliament and the Bill becomes law without the assent of the President. A Bill is published in the gazette after it has been assented to by the President. A Bill becomes an Act after it is passed by Parliament and assented to by the President or without Presidential assent in the circumstances discussed. COMMENCEMENT OF THE LAW (ACT) Commencement of an Act means the date when provisions of an Act are said to have legal effect. The date of commencement of an Act is the date: Provided in the Act; Of its publication in the Gazette where no date is provided; Appointed by the Minister where an Act confers power to the Minister to appoint a commencement date by statutory instrument; or Given or deemed to be given to an Act where an Act is made with retrospective effect.