How Far Can Parliament Thwart Accountability Demands?

Lwemiyaga County MP, Theodore Ssekikubo

Lwemiyaga County MP, Theodore Ssekikubo

The results of the social media campaign to expose financial extravagance in the Parliament of Uganda has culminated into a sharp division in Uganda’s leading opposition party, the National Unity Platform (NUP)because one of the top leaders was a victim of what activists termed as an exhibition.

Former Leader of Opposition (LOP) Mathias Mpuuga has vehemently refused to vacate their current office as backbench Commissioner after NUP president, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine cracked a whip on him for allegedly participating in a cash bonanza in Parliament.

Mpuuga who has since been suspended as Deputy President of the party in the Central region is accused of pocketing a service award as a former LOP of UGX 500 million. Though he has denied any illegality in what the Parliamentary Commission sliced for him, Mpuuga has faced a public rebuke. However, he is not alone as three Commissioners from the National Resistance Movement (NRM) continue to lurch in some bit of comfort because their party is yet to publicly come out to condemn their action. Before being retained as Commissioners; Solomon Silwanyi, MP Bukooli Central; Prossy Akampulira, Rubanda District Woman MP; and, Jessica Afwoyocan, Nebbi District Woman MP, pocketed service awards worth UGX 400 million.

Accountability or not?

Because, Speaker Anita Among has been in the spotlight for taking the lion’s share in the cash bonanza at Parliament with billions of Uganda Shillings exhibited on social media through different documents as having been drawn by different staff of Parliament on her behalf, the demand for accountability has hit a bumpy journey.

After thwarting current LOP Joel Ssenyonyi’s demand for debate on the matter arising out of a public exhibition of social media last month, Speaker Among seems not ready to let in another kind of request.

On Thursday, she declined to rule in favour of Lwemiyaga County MP, Theodore Ssekikubo’s procedural point as the outspoken legislator attempted to block the presentation of sectoral Committee reports on the Ministerial Policy Statements (MPSs). Ssekikubo wanted Parliament to first debate the allegations of cash bonanza which he thinks has tainted the image of the legislature.

You had undertaken that we shall have an opportunity to debate on the issue of the Parliament Exhibitions where in, members read the profligacy of this House, where upon the allegations of the handshake to the Commissioners was debated, where about, the backbench Commissioners were given money ranging from UGX 400 million to UGX 500 million and you undertook that an opportunity will be availed to us to have this matter thoroughly debated, concluded and put to rest, Ssekibubo said.

He was put to order first by Kumi Municipality MP, Silas Aogon who interpreted the move as divisionary and taking Parliament from the process of the budget. To this, the Speaker ruled Ssekikubo out of order because the House was handling a serious matter of the MPSs which have a deadline and any attempt to stop the presentation of reports and adopting them would affect the processing of the 2024/25 financial year budget. The MPSs have to be approved by Parliament by April 15 according to provisions of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015.

Hon. Members, by the time I leave my House in the morning, I come for serious business. I am the one who said I will give time for that discussion and I will give time. I have very important issues that are statutory in nature to be handled. And if you don’t respect the Chair, Hon Sssekikubo, unless we have more than one Speaker in this House. Much as I try to be patient, don’t touch the wrong side, the Speaker ruled.

Tempers flare

Meanwhile, Ssekikubo and Kazo County MP, Dan Kimosho clashed as the latter took the floor to block the former’s insistence on debating the allegations of corruption within Parliament. Kimosho whose constituency neighbours that of Ssekikubo, accused the Lwemiyaga County MP of basing his demands on social media issues even when he himself has survived debate following media reports of land grabbing and allegations of involvement in criminality.

Has it been a culture that Parliament will discuss everything that comes in the papers? If that is the trend, Ssekikubo is my neighbor, his constituency borders mine, on a daily or weekly [basis], I have heard news on our local radios talking about Ssekikubo to be a land grabber. I have never taken it as an issue and yet his involvement at whatever level affects the reputation of this Parliament being an MP. I have never thought that what you pick on the media becomes an issue for debate and discussion, said Kimosho.

Furtherance to his point of order, Kimosho incited Ssekikubo by alleging that there allegations of murder reported to police involving his name.

Is it therefore in order for Ssekikubo who knows that he has been repeatedly accused of grabbing land, evicting people, that there are cases of murder reported to Police involving his name, Parliament has never discussed that. Is he in order to think that this should be kept under the carpet and other issues should be thrown out of the air? asked Kimosho.

It is at this stage that Ssekikubo acted unruly by refusing to leave the microphone until Kimosho, who had dashed out of the chambers after driving his point home, returned to substantiate the allegations. He demanded that Kimosho’s submission be expunged from the Hansard but also have the Kazo MP referred to the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline for investigations.

When a member raises to tarnish the only asset I have, my reputation and you don’t give a member a chance to substantiate? On top of expunging it from the Hansard, it is the right and a proper case to refer him to the disciplinary committee and appear because he has appeared on the platform of this House to slur the reputation of a member. Kazo has produced brilliant MPs and I don’t know where this one came from, demanded Ssekikubo.

I will not sit until I get the explanation of the Commissioners, they are seated in this House, they should explain to this House where they got the money. Can the Commissioners explain to this House where they got the UGX 400m? Yes we have important issues to deal with, he added.

Stuck house

Because Ssekibubo had grabbed the microphone, Speaker Among who lashed at him for getting offended when he is discussed and has not cared how others feel when they are being discussed on social media, she allowed more submission on the procedural impasse.

LOP, Joel Ssenyonyi suggested that the Speaker listens to the pleas to have the matter debated so that Parliament is able to clear its image that has been tainted with allegations of corruption.

I did raise this issue here on the flow regarding expenditures by Parliament. One of the points I made was that Parliament would come up to explain orderly and I think he is following up on that and I think you can guide on when that will happen so that it doesn’t appear that we don’t want to account. It would settle many things. What has been happening is some people come out to speak on behalf of Parliament and may be without clear information, said Ssenyonyi

Jonathan Odur, MP for Erute South also reminded the Speaker of his intention to raise issues concerning the recruitment of staff of Parliament, saying he only needs time to put that in writing.

Odur also weighed in on the Ssekikubo, Kimosho clash suggesting that if the one who made the grave allegations against a colleague is nowhere in the chambers to substantiate with evidence, the submission should be expunged.

We either expunge what the Honourable for Kazo has said and what Hon. Ssekikubo had said, insisted the Speaker.

It is not clear whether upon spotting Kimosho back in the House on any other day, Ssekikubo or any other member will raise a procedural point so that the standoff is cleared by him being asked to substantiate on allegations of land grabbing, evictions and murder that he made against a colleague.


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