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Under Pressure, Parliament Suspends Spending of Shs 860m Balance of Shs 10bn C0VID -19 Money

The Parliamentary Commission has resolved to halt the spending of balance of Shs 10bn for the House’s COVID-19 activities.

ChimpReports has exclusively learned that the closed-door meeting, which took place on Thursday morning at the Conference Hall, decided not to touch the remaining Shs 860m in respect of the High Court ruling.

“We have decided to stop the spending of the money until we get the interpretation of the Attorney General,” said a source.

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga was reportedly called during the closed door sitting and told report to the House today afternoon to guide the Legislature.

More than Shs 9bn of the money has already been sent to the individual accounts of 452 Members of Parliament. The money was released by Bank of Uganda on Tuesday few minutes to midday, just an hour before the court order.

Kampala High Court Judge, Esther Nambayo on Tuesday issued an order stopping the disbursement or the spending of the money.

“That until the hearing and determination of miscellaneous application No.179 of 2020 the status quo to paragraphs 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the affidavit of Gerald Karuhanga sworn in support of this application be maintained I.e the monies in the sum of UGX 10, 000, 000, 000, (Uganda shillings Ten billion) appropriated to the 1st respondent (Paramilitary Commission) under the impugned amendment to the report of the budget Committee in supplementary Expenditure….remain undistributed until the determination of miscellaneous application No. 197 of 2020,” said the judge.

She further directed that “if already paid, the Members of Parliament are ordered not to dissipate or spend the same until the hearing and final determination of miscellaneous application No. 197 of 2020 or until further orders from this Honorable Court.”

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However, some MPs have already spent the money while others returned it to the House.

Jim Mugunga, the Finance ministry spokesperson, last week said they were not consulted by the Budget committee of Parliament.

While Parliament approved the request on 7 April 2020, an amount worth Shs 10bn within this supplementary budget was approved for each Member of Parliament to receive Shs 20m.

Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said the Fund was meant for drivers of ambulances MPs had seconded to the Ministry of Health as well as support their advocacy work.

However, the move has attracted a huge public uproar with observers saying the Parliament was gradually institutionalizing corruption.

Activists said it was saddening that Ugandan legislators chose to raid the consolidated fund for personal gains at a time when Government is scrambling to borrow funds to address the effects of COVID-19.

Legality

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.

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 contradict, 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.

Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) Executive Director Julius Mukunda told ChimpReports that paying drivers of the ambulances that MPs seconded to Health Ministry, as well community sensitization “are in no way oversight roles but rather a duplication of the work of the National Task Force, and what other Government agencies are already doing as defined by the Uganda’s National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management (2011).”

He said “Parliament of Uganda must restrict itself to its legislative role and leave COVID-19 response activities to the National task force appointed by the President.”

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