By Nasser Kasozi Akandwanaho
News reaching our desk indicate that,the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni has rejected to assent to the Public Health Amendment Bill , and asked Parliament to reconsider the proposal that requires Government to seek for permission from local authorities before destroying infected items, describing such a proposal as erroneous.
The President’s stand was communicated by Speaker Among who informed lawmakers that the President had refused to sign into law the Public Health Amendment Bill after raising objection on three clauses, among which include the definition of immunization, asking lawmakers to replace the word with vaccination.
The President also raised objection on the framing of Section 14(1) where Parliament has proposed to have the Ministry of Health to seek consent of the local governments before destroying infected material, saying the proposal should be deleted because it would lead to increase in spread of deadly diseases.
“The requirement of seeking for permission of the authority of the local authority to destroy infected bedding is erroneous. During an outbreak of an infectious disease, any delay to destroy the articles or clothing aggravates to the spreading of the disease in any case, under the guidance of any disease the destroyed infected items are compensated by giving the person a compassionate kit which comprises among others a mattress, bed sheets, utensils, and other related commonly used items,” read in part the President’s letter.
The Public Health Amendment Bill 2021 was tabled before Parliament in October 2021 and it was intended to amend the Public Health Act that was first enacted in 1935 and has never been amended. The Bill therefore seeks to addresses the emerging public health challenges including the new and emerging infectious diseases such as COVID – l9 and Ebola and the amendment was intended to repeal the obsolete provisions; to revise the fines for offences committed under the Act.
However, Ibrahim Ssemujju (Kira Municipality) raised concern on the numerous bills being returned by the President, wondering why the Ministers backtrack on positions reached by Parliament
He said: “The rate at which bills are being returned, government including the legal advisor who is the Attorney General are members of parliament. We process these bills together, is there anything that they don’t tell us and they go behind our backs and tell the President because bills after one another are being returned. Can the the Ministers tell us when we are processing these bills are absent minded so that you go and moblise the President to return the bills?”
However Speaker Among said the issue of returning bills can’t be solely blamed on the Ministers but lawmakers too, share the blame, citing the scenario of the Parliament Pension Amendment Bill that was also returned citing the decision by Parliament to increase the component of the contribution of Government to savers in the Parliament pension scheme from 30% to 40%, saying the proposal wasn’t scrutunised by the Committee.
The Speaker said: “The issue of the Bills that are returned, there is tendency and I want us to copy a leaf from this, especially on the Parliament Pension Amendment Bill, when we reintroduce an item on the floor, there is already a ruling to that effect; the ruling is that you can’t introduce an item on the floor and expect it to be passed. The 40% was introduced on the floor, that is why it has been rejected, and this is going to help us in the subsequent bills.”
In his 13th October 2022 letter to Speaker Among, the President questioned why the bill presented to the Ministry of Finance for a report on financial implication proposed to have Government’s contribution raised from 30% to 40%.
“I have been informed that the appropriate quantum for contribution can only be determined by an actuarial valuation of the Parliamentary Pension Scheme. In view of the above, I am returning the bill to Parliament for reconsideration as per article 91(3)(b) of the constitution,” read Museveni’s letter.
The Speaker sent the two bills to the Committee of Health as well as Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for reconsideration before parliament takes a final decision on the matter.