EDWARD BALIDAWA: My take on Ugandan MP’s performance score card

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Hon Edward kafufu Balidawa.
By :
Hon Edward Balidawa

It is good to have a rate card that offers the public a glimpse in the performance of their representatives in Parliament. It is in a way an accountability call on our MPs.

I am sure that it is for this reason that the recently released performance score card of MPs of the 10th Parliament has generated alot of public interest.

As for Busoga, the rankings in performance has attracted unprecedented debate on most of Busoga social media platforms and indeed here on this BBP forum, we find ourselves with the same post this time categorizing performance of Busoga MPs by District.

Having been a person who underwent through a similar performance rating before, during my ten-year tenure in the House, I can only wish to sound an informed caution about these ratings.

These ratings are for sure a wake-up call for our representatives to know that the people whom they represent are alert and are expectant of good accountability for the mandate that they vested in their MPs for the five year term. Beyond that, I doubt if there is much credibility that should be read out of those ratings.

To make my point, let me pull out just one of the parameters that is used in the ranking performance of the MP in this particular score card.

The score card rates MPs based on how frequent an MP speaks on the floor of Parliament and as captured and recorded in the official Parliamentary record called the Hansard. It also rates an MP based on the length of the submission that particular MP makes. This means that in effect if an MP who may have spoken only once but made a lengthy submission which is captured in the Hansard covering two or even more pages and words, will be rated highly and given more marks than one who may have spoken on many occasions but in very short submissions.

To understand this point more clearer, you need to know that an MP who is a Chairperson of a Parliamentary Committee stands a better chance to be rated higher than others even if really that MP isn’t effective in representation.

May be let me add here also something that many people are not privy to. Becoming a Chairperson of a Parliamentary Committee is not much based on one’s requisite knowledge or qualifications in the field that the committee is dealing with, but rather on loyalty to the political party that one belongs to and to a great extent on the personal relationship one has with the Party Whip.

This is why you will find a person with background in Social Works (SWASA) heading a technical committee such as that of ICT or Science & Technology. It will not be uncommon to get an MP with no prior training, knowledge or experience in any security matters, heading a Committee on Security, Defense & Internal Affairs!

Back to the ratings issue. So given the above scenario, naturally an MP who is heading a particular Committee that is handling any business before such as a petition, an investigation or a bill will automatically have greater chance of scoring higher on account of the Committee report that the head of the committee will read/present to the House.

Although such a report is a summary representation of the views of all Committee members, the Hansard will capture and record this report and attribute it to the Chairperson of the committee who shall have presented it on the floor of the House. This is why you can see that even MPs whom everyone knows that are not actually active in any daily Parliamentary debates, are scoring much higher in the score card than the ones we have been familiarly seeing on the TV screens contributing sometimes forcefully on certain issues.

The other equally interesting parameter used in these rankings that seem to be misleading is that of attendance of Committee meetings.

Although, indeed it is a duty of each MP to attend Committee meetings, I submit that mere recording of how many times an MP attended committee meetings shouldn’t be the basis of the grading of performance of an MP.

Many MPs simply walk in a committee sign the register and immediately walk out never to return till the next meeting. I did experience this habit several times with some of my members on the ICT Committee that I had the privilege to chair for five consecutive years.

Since we know that much of the Parliamentary work is effectively done in these committees, the guys rating MPs should start considering also the quality of contributions made by individual MPs in these committees.

Someone coming to the committee and simply sits in the meeting the entire period with only occasionally munching on the tea goodies that are in plenty on the table, should not for heaven’s sake be ranked as being an effective representation.

I must point out that these and many other similar concerns about the score cards for MPs were raised with Ndugu David Pulkol many years back and it is my continued hope that as the score card and the performance rating process of MPs evolves so will the parameters so that we can in the end get a realistic score card.

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Balidawa, is former Kigulu North MP

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