The tenth parliament is seeking to up the quality of debate on the floor of the House through its department of research.
The move comes on the backdrop of reports highlighting the deteriorating quality of debate during Plenary.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah has in the past lamented about the quality of debate in the House attributing it to lack of research on the part of legislators.
Oulanyah today noted that research is critical for an institution like parliament since it is the highest legal forum in the country.
Parliament’s Department of Research Services was elevated to a directorate four years ago. Prior to that it was a Research Section housed under the Parliament Library that was established in 1999.
The Department in partnership with the UK Civil Society Group, International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, Uganda National Academy of Sciences is holding a research week to emphasise the need for using evidence.
John Mugabi Bagonza, the Director Research said that the department has 34 staff in areas of social services, economics, engineering, politics and constitutionalism among others.
Bagonza says that three months since the inception of the tenth parliament, the department has received 200 requests so far describing it as a good sign.
Cecilia Ogwal, a veteran legislator and parliament commissioner says that it is a challenge on the 10th parliament to eliminate the ideological debate that crowded both the 8th and 9th parliaments.
“We do acknowledge one thing that in this dotcom age, they (new MPs) seem to trust their Google and their accessibility to internet is much more than reading text books as our generations did. But I think through the research services they would be able to create a good balance and mix,” Ogwal said.
Ogwal who has been in Parliament for more than 30 years told our reporter that her experience of the 6th and 7th parliaments is that they debated based on issues and matters of national importance.
She added that very many bills in the 8th and 9th parliaments were passed very much aware that the debate was good but the voting was not in favour of the good debate. One such example was the passing of the Public Order Management Act.
Ogwal noted that despite the importance of multiparty politics that she pushed for, it has polarised the debate in parliament.
Ogwal, who represents Dokolo District, cited a need for MPs not only to depend on internet but also make use of other informative ways so that they are better equipped to debate on the floor of parliament.
Peter Ogwang, the Usuk County MP and a parliament commissioner cited a need for parliament to get more researchers. He proposes that each Member of Parliament should be facilitated with a personal researcher to have a better and vibrant parliament.
However, Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa said that it’s not necessary for each MP to be assigned a research assistant.
She noted that parliament can only increase the number of staff in the research department to fifty personnel so that MPs can access their ervices.
Professor Nelson Sewankambo, the president of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences emphasised the need for information to improve the standard of debate and inform whatever happens on the floor of parliament.
He said that if evidence is used; parliament will end up making better laws for the country.
Some of parliament’s research department recently released research data includes Understanding the Nature, Dangers and Responses to Counterfeit Trade in Uganda: A Case of Consumer Goods and The Impact of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Law, 2010 in Uganda among others.