The virtual Parliament is envisaged to enable MP's comply with the Public Health requirement of social distancing and limit the spread of Coronavirus Disease. The current number of MP's and parliament staff required to attend each parliamentary meeting and the available space in the meeting rooms both for plenary sittings and committee meetings cannot meet the requirement for social distancing.
The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga chairing the afternoon plenary session. Photo by Parliament of Uganda.
Parliament has amended its
rules of procedure to allow for virtual proceedings in both committee and
plenary sessions. This will allow
Parliamentary business to run through a designated digital platform that enables MPs
and staff to attend the meetings remotely.
amendment followed a directive from the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca
Kadaga to the Rules, Privileges and Discipline committee, to consider
amendment of the rules to allow parliament to operate virtually
during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The virtual Parliament is envisaged to enable MP's
comply with the Public Health requirement of social distancing and limit the spread of Coronavirus Disease. The current number of MP's and parliament staff required to
attend each parliamentary meeting and the available space in the meeting rooms
both for plenary sittings and committee meetings cannot meet the requirement
for social distancing.
The Ninth Parliament is composed of 457 MP's and
each committee consists of a maximum of 35 and 30 legislators for Standing and
Sectoral Committees respectively.
According to Clement Ongalo Obote, the Chairperson
of the Rules Committee, it was deemed imperative to adopt a
Virtual Parliament in order to ensure that business is not interrupted by the
COVID-19 pandemic or any other exceptional circumstances or emergencies as
determined by the Speaker from time to time.
In his report adopted by MPs, Ongalo recommended
that parliament adopts a hybrid virtual Parliament and not a Complete Virtual
Parliament to allow some MPs to be physically present at the meeting while others
participate in the same meeting through a designated digital platform. He said that a Complete Virtual Parliament would be
challenged since the communications infrastructure in Parliament and the country today is inadequate.
"There are currently challenges of having every
Member of Parliament logged onto the Virtual Parliament at the same time. The
Committee, therefore, notes that as parliament pilots the virtual Parliament, a hybrid approach is the more feasible," said Ongalo.
Following the report, Parliament resolved that a member
virtually present in the House shall stand or sit against a background that maintains
the decorum of the Chamber at all times and in regard to time and manner of
speaking, a member desiring to speak shall raise his or her hand and not
speak until he or she catches the Speaker's eye.
In regard to voting, the Speaker is mandated under
the new rules to designate a specific voting method for a member virtually
present in the House.
These same rules governing the participation of
Members in the proceedings of Parliament outside the Chamber of through
the designated digital platform shall apply to participation of Members
of a committee. Kadaga emphasized that a decent
dress code should be adhered to even when members are making submissions