The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has this Thursday declared that the House is under attack by the Executive and the Judiciary arms of government and warned of imminent reciprocal action.
Accompanied by three backbench Commissioners of Parliament including Solomon Silwany of Bukholi, Arinaitwe Rwakajara representing workers and Francis Mwijukye of Bhuhweju, Kadaga said the Legislature is going to reveal more information on the government expenditure as early as next week.
“Today we are only handling the attack on Parliament by the Executive and the Judiciary. Next week we are going to give information on the supplementary,” said Kadaga.
Her comments come after a blistering attack by President Museveni, saying Parliament’s decision to allocate Shs 20m to each lawmaker to fight Coronavirus was “morally reprehensible”.
ChimpReports extensively published stories on the Shs 938.8bn supplementary budget that was hastily passed by Parliament without debate on April 7 2020. The money included Shs 304bn for COVID-19 fight.
Parliament’s Shs 10bn that has become the center of storm and pitted Parliament against the other two arms of government was picked from the Shs 304bn COVID-19 budget.
The details of the supplementary only came to light on April 17 2020 in an exclusive reporting by this investigative website.
In a direct departure from the High Court order directing MPs to return the money or take it to their respective district taskforces, Kadaga told MPs to follow her earlier guidelines.
“Don’t panic but use the Shs 20m as I had directed. Parliament is independent and accountability starts from here. We have the accounting officer here,” added Kadaga.
It remains unclear if Kadaga was threatening a
protracted battle with the executive or playing to the gallery.
Article 156 of the Uganda Constitution, 1995 gives Parliament the power to appropriate funds presented to it in an Appropriation or Supplementary Appropriation Bills which are prepared by the Executive branch.
This is operationalized by Sections 14 and 25 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), 2015.
However, Article 93 of the Constitution provides that Parliament shall not impose any charge on the consolidated funds unless the motion is brought by the Executive.
Parliament’s action also contradicted Section 15 PFMA which enjoins the Parliament to ensure that public resources are held and utilized in a transparent, accountable, efficient, effective, and sustainable manner.
Nevertheless, the Speaker last Thursday announced the incorporation of MPs into national and district COVID-19 taskforces.
She told them to spend the Shs 20m only on the intended interventions including food relief, medical intervention and capacity building.
She said the accountability of the money compiled by the MPs shall be copied to the respective Chief Administrative Officers and the original receipts sent to the Parliament’s Accounting Officer.
Kadaga attacked the judge for passing the judgment when the petitioners including Gerald Karuhanga and Jonathan Odur had reportedly withdrawn the case.
“Yesterday, a judge appropriated the money which is not his mandate. Interestingly, Odur and Karuhanga had withdrawn the case but he didn’t talk about it only to go ahead and pass the judgment,” said Kadaga.
The Speaker revealed that Parliament and the Attorney General, who are respondents in the case have protested to the court registry and are waiting a response.
Some MPs including Bobi Wine have since returned the money to Parliament, describing the pay as a bribe.
Other lawmakers have vowed not to refund the money, saying they used it to procure relief items for their constituencies.
But Museveni has since warned of serious consequences if the money is not returned.
“Even if you have spent the money wrongly, you will pay it back because you have a salary. Those who have given it to the Taskforce, we can appeal to Ugandans to forgive you. The bad thing is to spend it on yourself. It’s terrible and unacceptable.,” said Museveni.
“For those who spend the money, what did you buy? What procedures did you follow? Did you follow PPDA rules? There is also the problem of distributing food. How? Didn’t you contribute to the spread of the virus? What structure were you using? Aren’t you interfering with regulation of controlling the disease? The political leaders should be examples.”
Additional reporting by Giles Muhame