Parliament has Tuesday adopted the report of the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline on the proposed amendment of Rules of Procedure of Parliament to provide for a virtual parliament as a measure to enhance Parliament business during outbreaks such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
A virtual Parliament refers to the conducting of Parliamentary business through a designated digital platform that enables Members of Parliament and staff to attend the meetings remotely.
The need for a virtual Parliament emanated from the necessity to comply with the Public Health requirement of social distancing to limit the spread of COVID-I9 amidst the realization that given the number of Members of Parliament (457) and Members of Staff required to attend each parliamentary meeting, the available space in the meeting rooms within the Parliamentary Buildings, both for plenary sittings and committee meetings could not meet the requirement for social distancing.
“It was deemed imperative that the Parliament of Uganda adopts a Virtual Parliament so as to ensure that Parliamentary business is not interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic or any other exceptional circumstances/emergencies as determined by the Speaker from time to time,” noted the committee chairperson, Clement Ongalo Obote.
To make provision for online participation of members and online tabling of
documents and further protect online processes by parliamentary privilege, Parliament has Substitute for the definitions of “House” and “Table”.
According to the new rules, “House” means a sitting of Members in the Chamber of Parliament and Members virtually present in the House;
“member virtually present in the House” refers to a member participating in the proceedings of Parliament outside the Chamber of Parliament through a designated digital platform having obtained leave of the Speaker and registered with the Clerk to so appear at least twelve hours before the commencement of a sitting.
“Table” refers to the Clerk’s Table or virtual Table designated by the Speaker from time to time and accessible to all members.
The new rules provide for a member virtually present in the House to form part of the quorum of the House. A member may, with leave of the Speaker, lay a paper on a virtual table designated by the Speaker and accessible to all members.
On questions to be decided by the majority, a member on leave of absence may appoint another member to vote for his or her behalf using the prescribed proxy form.