The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has in a show of defiance told MPs to spend the Shs 20 million that was wired to their accounts to enable them to participate in activities aimed at containing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) despite a court order restraining the lawmakers from spending the money.
Parliament was allocated Shs 10 billion as a supplementary budget to facilitate the legislature’s efforts against the spread of coronavirus disease.
From this allocation, each of the legislators received Shs 20 million raising controversy on the exact role that the MPs were going to play when the country is on lockdown.
On Tuesday, the High Court issued an order stopping the parliamentary commission from disbursing the money, following an application by Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga and his Erute South counterpart, Jonathan Odur.
Kadaga told parliament this afternoon that a meeting held with President Yoweri Museveni and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda on Wednesday discussed how best Parliament’s activities can be incorporated in those being implemented by government structures.
Kadaga said that henceforth, MPs will join and be incorporated into the respective district COVID-19 task forces as members. She said that the structure and leadership of the district shall remain as is and that MPs representing special interest groups will be absorbed in the National Task Force where interventions will be coordinated.
“Pursuant to that the Parliamentary Commission has charted out the following guidelines: (1). MPs shall be incorporated in District task forces… An MP will spend the Shs 20 million only on interventions meant to support the national response; in respective districts. MPs will agree with District Taskforces on what is best to spend on,” Kadaga said.
Kadaga said that MPs will spend the Shs 20 million advanced to them by the Parliamentary Commission only on interventions meant to support the National response in their respective districts. She said that since the country’s districts are not homogenous with needs differing, each district will determine how best to utilize the funds.
She added that accountability for the money shall be made to the Clerk to Parliament and copied to the Chief Administrative Officer of the districts. She, however, said that MPs shall adhere strictly to the government guidelines on COVID-19 pandemic and shall not personally get involved in the distribution of food or materials.
Earlier, Kadaga accused the Attorney General William Byaruhanga of encouraging the Judiciary to overrun parliament. This after Byaruhanga told Parliament that failure to obey a court order stopping the disbursement of the money exposes one to contempt of court and that the MPs who spent the money after April 21 when the court order was issued would be held to be in contempt.
“We look at this as an attempt to suffocate the work of Parliament, to deminish powers of Parliament. I want to warn the banks not to interfere with MPs accounts. You will be sued. The MPs you’re disturbing have no judgement against them, so… that’s stupidity anyway,” said Kadaga
According to the court order issued by Justice Esta Nambayo, the MPs are not supposed to use the money even though they receive it until the matter is decided upon by the court on April 29, 2020.
But Kadaga said that the status quo upon which the court ruled was that the money had already been sent by the Parliamentary Commission and that this status quo should be maintained. She added that the MPs were not a party to the suit and the court had no business to interfere with their accounts. The Attorney General insisted that the court is entitled to make their order.
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