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Graft charges against 3 ruling party MPs rattle Uganda Parliament

Friday June 14 2024
The Ugandan Parliament during a past session.

The Ugandan Parliament during a past session. PHOTO | AFP

By Daily Monitor
By JONATHAN KAMOGA

Ugandan President Museveni has flagged corruption as a major impediment to the country’s full socio-economic transformation.

Speaking shortly after Finance Minister Matia Kasaija unveiled Uganda’s $19.1 billion budget for 2024/25 on Thursday, the President reiterated his vow to fight graft.

“We are going to stamp out corruption…I don’t know how they [the corrupt] forget that we have got a lot of power [and] capacity, which we shall use, if necessary…these corrupt people insult our heroes,” he said.

“Now that they (the corrupt) don’t listen to our advice, they have now attracted our full attention, you will see. We shall crush this treachery. This is really betrayal and we are going to finish it,” he added.

His terse remarks came a day after the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala remanded three Members of Parliament – all from his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party – to Luzira Prison on corruption charges.

They are Lwengo District Woman representative Cissy Namujju, Bunyole East MP Yusuf Mutembuli, and his Busiki South counterpart Paul Akamba.

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Prosecution averred that the trio offered to lobby Parliament’s Budget Committee to increase the annual allocations of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the statutory rights body, on condition that 20 percent of the increment was passed back to them.

"Mutembuli, Akamba and Dionizia ... solicited an undue advantage ... by asserting that they were able to exert improper influence over the decision-making of the budget committee of parliament of Uganda to increase the UHRC budget," the charge sheet, seen by Reuters, read.

The accused denied the joint charge and were sent to prison, pending a bail hearing. 

Mr Museveni said he had been prompted to deploy “harsh” measures to tackle corrupt bureaucrats because they failed to heed his previous “soft methods”.

Last week, during his State-of-the-Nation Address Mr Museveni said he received intelligence that some lawmakers were conniving with officials from government departments to inflate their budgets in exchange for a commission.

Detectives picked the lawmakers on Monday after President Museveni ordered the police and prosecutors to go after thieving officials.

On Wednesday, Ramathan Ggoobi, the finance ministry permanent secretary and secretary to the treasury admitted that MPs have been tampering with the budget for years, moving government priorities and replacing them with other needs in their constituencies.

“Uganda has a lot of budget games...Some (MPs) tell the accounting officers 'Do you want more money, yes come and talk to us, we shall put in more money but you must return some',” he said.

Earlier in her remarks, Parliament Speaker Anita Among urged accounting officers of various government entities to openly report all instances of influence peddling by legislators or parliamentary staff.

“Previously we have urged accounting officers to share with the leadership of the legislature any incidences of influence peddling,” she said, adding: “However, we haven’t received any such information. We urge accounting officers to maintain open channels of communication and coordination with the leadership of the legislature in pursuit of greater transparency and accountability.”

She also rallied MPs to desist from corrupt tendencies, including soliciting “inducements from anybody”.

Read: No respite for the besieged Ugandan speaker

Hours before the budget reading, Deputy Parliament Speaker Thomas Tayebwa said they were working “very closely with the President and we hope that we can continue cleaning up” the House.

The opposition has long criticised Museveni's government for failing to prosecute top officials for graft, saying the government was prioritising political loyalty over accountability in public finances.

The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Joel Ssenyonyi, called for expanded corruption investigations to include the Parliamentary Commission, accusing it of lacking transparency.

This comes when a section of parliamentarians led by Theodro Ssekikubo are seeking about 170 signatures to censure four commissioners accused of awarding themselves $449,060.

The four include former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and Nyendo-Mukungwe MP, Mathias Mpuuga; Bukooli County Central MP Solomon Silwany; Zombo District Woman MP Esther Afoyochan; and Rubanda District Woman MP Prossy Akampurira.

Some MPs told this publication that the ongoing police investigations have sent shockwaves within the House with some legislators opting to take trips abroad briefly and some staying away from Parliament.

According to several Auditor General reports Uganda loses about 40 percent of its budget financing to corruption. 

Sources within the Uganda police criminal investigations department said that detectives will also target accounting officers of government ministries and departments, civil service and district accounting officers.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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