MPs hold final session, pass public service bill

Members of the Chamber of Deputies yesterday held the last session of their five-year term, ahead of the parliamentary elections slated for September 16.
MPs Espérance Mwiza, Joseph Desire Nyandwi,  Faith Mukakalisa are among the legislators who contributed during the debate. The New Times/ File.
MPs Espérance Mwiza, Joseph Desire Nyandwi, Faith Mukakalisa are among the legislators who contributed during the debate. The New Times/ File.

Members of the Chamber of Deputies yesterday held the last session of their five-year term, ahead of the parliamentary elections slated for September 16.

To cap their five years in the August House, the lawmakers debated and passed the Bill establishing the general statutes for the country’s public service.

The debate, in the morning plenary, especially heightened on Article 28, which lays down what is expected on matters of long-term sick leave.

There was disagreement on the article, which previously stated that when sick leave exceeds 15 days while ascertained by a medical committee composed of three recognised medical doctors, an employee shall be granted a long-term sick leave of six months.

Much to lawmakers’ dissatisfaction, however, the clause also stated that a public servant granted this long-term sick leave shall be entitled to his or her salary only during the first three months.

MPs Emmanuel Mudidi, Joseph Desire Nyandwi, Clotilde Mukakarangwa, Faith Mukakalisa, and others voiced concerns over what they said would be a legal crack in the public service statute if employees on long term sick leave are left to go without pay in the last part of the leave, yet they were genuinely sick and, in certain cases, suffered illness caused by work hazards.

“Let’s for example consider the case of one who gets sick – this person has not left work on bad terms, or one whose sickness has been caused by work related hazards, and we just drop them like that?” Mukakalisa wondered.

Constance Rwaka Mukayuhi, among others, stressed that perhaps, the situation could have been eased if the previously mentioned provident fund was in place.

Explanations by MP Ignatienne Nyirarukundo, the deputy chairperson of the social affairs committee, which scrutinised the bill, were partly found wanting and a subsequent vote did not garner enough votes for the clause.

The lawmakers wanted it returned to the committee so that it is reviewed and the concerns addressed.

The leave debate

When debate resumed later in the afternoon plenary, MP Espérance Mwiza, the chairperson of the committee, told the House that the lawmakers concerns had been put into consideration and the article was duly amended to state that “a public servant granted a long-term sick leave shall be entitled to his or her salary during the first three months of the leave, and two thirds of their salary in the subsequent three months.”

Among other things, in the morning, lawmakers also insisted that public service employees must desist from the habit of forfeiting their annual leave, because of the monetary incentives that come with it.

This was when debating Article 19 (deadline for taking annual leave) which states that when a public servant does not take his or her leave within a period of one year for service reasons though he or she had applied for it, they must take their leave not later than the first month of the following year.

Mwiza explained that this would hinder those who trade their leave for money but also encourage employers to ensure that employees get to stay away from work and rest because this is important for their health and efficiency when they return to work.

Meanwhile, members of the Cabinet as well as the judiciary on Monday started their 15-day recess.

But this does not mean that government business is not running normally just because they are taking some time off , according to some officials.

“Personally, I have just come out of a meeting and, even tomorrow, I have business to attend to. Definitely, we will be taking time to attend to important government business during this period – important activities will continue,” the Minister for Education, Dr. Vincent Biruta said.

Cabinet will resume business on August 20. Parliament [the Senate] goes into a month-long recess after Monday’s sessions as provided for by Article 71 of the Constitution.

Parliamentary business – apart from possible extraordinary sessions in the interim – begins on October 5.

The Senators will continue to operate but the Chamber of Deputies’ last session was Monday ahead of its dissolution to pave way for preparations for the September polls.

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