Parliament Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga has reacted angrily to President Yoweri Museveni’s criticism of the MPs’ Shs 20 million Covid-19 facilitation and the court judgement that directed the recipient MPs to refund the money.
Addressing journalists at her Parliamentary boardroom two days after Museveni warned MPs against spending the money, Kadaga said that the President’s statements and the court ruling on the Shs 10 billion Covid-19 allocation to Parliament are an indication of a direct attack on the legislature by both the executive and judiciary.
High Court judge Michael Elubu on Wednesday issued an order directing all MPs to refund monies deposited on their personal bank accounts as facilitation for activities to control the spread of the coronavirus disease. The court convened in less than 24 hours after Museveni’s Tuesday night speech. It coincidentally issued orders that were similar to the directives Museveni had issued to the MPs regarding the Shs 20 million each received.
The court decision rose out of a petition by MPs Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) and Jonathan Odur (Erute South) who contested the Shs 10 billion allocation to Parliament.
But Kadaga says that the court order directing MPs to return the money to the Parliamentary Commission does not fully reflect the proceedings of the court where the applicant, Karuhanga, withdrew his application. She also attacked the Judge for taking over the appropriation role of Parliament.
“This is now new. A judge appropriating money from the court? Appropriation is for Parliament….that’s what the Constitution says. But a judge sitting in court and saying now he is appropriating? This is an attack on Parliament by the Executive and the Judiciary,” Kadaga said.
She wondered why everyone is fixated with the allocation to parliament when money was equally appropriated to other government institutions such as National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) which was given Shs 15 billion as the Office of the Prime Minister carried home Shs 59 billion which was used to buy “expired milk and rotten beans.”
Kadaga further cited Shs 94 billion which went to the Ministry of Health, Shs 6 billion to the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology, Shs 165 billion for the local governments, Shs 55 million for each of the Resident District Commissioners (RDC) among other entities.
“The MPs have been spending money over a long time, personally, I think… they almost Shs 200 million spent on these things already. We started spending even before this supplementary came. If MPs show you messages on their phones, nine out of 10 are asking for food. So for anybody to say that we should not be visible… Why don’t they want us to be visible? We are elected leaders. So they want to go and show they care more about these people than we whom they elected! This is wrong and we shall not accept it,” the Speaker said.
Kadaga further stated that MPs handed over their 270 ambulances to the Ministry of Health to help in the response against COVID-19 but the responsibility for the payment of drivers, fueling and others is still with the legislators.
Kadaga promised to take appropriate action against the executive insisting that there should be no interference as long as Parliament follows the Constitution.
“We are concerned that we are being attacked by the Executive and we are going to take appropriate action on that issue as well. We are three arms of government, we all have responsibilities under the Constitution and we are carrying out responsibilities. So there should be no interference in our work as long as we follow the Constitution,” she said.
She urged the MPs not to panic and to follow the guidance she offered concerning the expenditure of the money.
“The guidelines I gave follow the National Audit act and the rules of procedure. So how will they account to the Judiciary?” Kadaga wondered.