Effective April 14, 2020, the Parliamentary chamber will be open to only 100 out of the 459 MPs in the 11th Parliament. This is part of the new stringent measures issued by the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.
Since the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in Uganda mid last month, Parliament’s plenary sittings were moved to the conference hall which offers more space to the legislators than the Parliamentary chamber.
In the conference hall, the legislators’ seats were arranged in conformity with the four-metre-spacing recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) but it did not guarantee that the MPs respected the social-distancing requirements.
In her communication to Parliament on Tuesday, Kadaga said that with effect from April 14, plenary sessions shall be conducted in the Parliament Chamber and must end not later than 5 pm, and will be attended by not more than 100 members, five Parliamentary staff members to be deployed by the Clerk of Parliament and two staff on the technical bench of government.
“Consequently, 80 seats will be marked on each sitting day for use by the backbench members and each will have an assigned number. Before the scheduled sitting of the House, the Government Chief Whip, Opposition Whip and the Speaker on behalf of the Independents and Coordinator of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) representatives shall designate members under the numerical strength in the House provided that all Members of Parliament will be given an opportunity once in a week to attend the sitting of Parliament,” she directed.
The Speaker says that the nomination of these members shall be sent and received by the Clerk of Parliament by 5 pm, a day before the date when the sitting of the House shall be held.
Members of Parliament shall also not be allowed to change seats in the House and there will be no physical consultation between MPs, the Clerk’s table and the Speaker’s desk.
Kadaga said that in the current circumstances, the biometric register of MP’s attendance is suspended and the Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige shall ensure that each member is manually recorded as present during the relevant sitting.
Members with pre-existing conditions were encouraged by the Speaker to work from home.
Parliament shall only be accessible through the Parliamentary intranet and the Parliamentary website to avoid the use of paper documents.
Kadaga also directed that every member while entering or exiting the House shall observe social distancing requirements.
“So you cannot move as a group. You have to move sequentially out of the House so that the measures are observed. When members exit the House, the Sergeants shall disinfect the seats before it is occupied by other members who may be outside and want to enter,” she added.
Committee sittings have also been suspended except the Budget Committee or and the Finance Committee and any other committee approved by the Speaker to be handling the business of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kadaga says that these special committee sittings will be facilitated by 1 clerk assistant, 1 legal officer, 1 research officer, a sergeant, 1 budget officer at any given time.
Kadaga also suspended the physical presence of the media during committee meetings and directed the Clerk of Parliament to make arrangements to enable media to access committee meetings electronically.
Kadaga also suspended catering services at the Parliament Canteen or anywhere in the precincts of Parliament noting that only water will be availed to the MPs during the Plenary and Committee meetings.
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