A feeling of betrayal and uselessness swept through Members of Parliament last evening as President Yoweri Museveni used his more than two hours televised speech to chide them for taking Shs 20 million each as facilitation for their activities to fight the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
The money is off the Shs 10 billion which was appropriated to the Parliamentary Commission as part of the government’s Shs 304 billion supplementary budget request to finance the national response plan to Covid-19.
In his speech, Museveni described the payment as immoral, also sounding to be in support of MPs Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) and Jonathan Odur (Erute South) who ran to court to challenge the allocation.
“I’m very thankful to Ugandans they have responded but the Shs 20 million by the MPs that caused confusion… It was a result of bad planning but secondly, there were also legal and constitutional issues involved. It would be morally reprehensible and totally unacceptable to me and the NRM for MPs to give themselves money for personal use at this time when the country is in such a crisis,” Museveni said.
This website reported on Monday that Museveni had warned his ministers against using the money, and wanted all the NRM MPs to reject it. See: https://www.witness.co.ug/why-ministers-defied-museveni-on-mps-shs-20m-covid-19-cash/
During the Tuesday night address, Museveni said he had had a meeting with the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, and warned her that she entered the trap and the best way the MPs had to extract themselves from it is by not spending the money.
Based on sentiments they expressed in their conversations on the social media messaging app, WhatsApp, the legislators got angrier as Museveni hinted that the MPs who had spent the money outside the established government structures will have to account for it.
Here are some of the exchanges the MPs had on WhatsApp with minimal editing.
“The money wasn’t meant for us. We mean less to H.E and please, I think it’s better to avoid getting in to trouble coz of what can easily be avoided. Give the vultures money to feast on ???? ???? ???? ????
“Yiiii nga morality teyakola Ku age limit? Mwebale kuyisa Cities. Ababaziza nnyo. Kaweddemu. [How come morality didn’t apply for the Age Limit cash? Thank you passing the motion for creation of new cities. He was calculative, game over.] #COVID19UG”
“Sente zino zilimu ebyobufuzzi era akyazirina kyandibadde kirungi okuzizayo [This payment has turned too political, the best thing is for whoever has it to take it back]”
“So with the age limit money, it was never immoral!”
“The real leopard already spoke to the leopardess and she willingly said all is well sir. We planned wrongly ????????????????
“Always conning. Now twice; in the age limit with the 2 years. Now the Shs 20m The last straw is fighting you out of Parliament.”
“My issue is not him conning Parliamentarians because I [know] the Shs 20m was not worth what the [constituency] was taking, we just have to recompose ourselves, use [the] court [case] to reject the money basing on [the] court [order] otherwise you will look funny.”
“No, with or without court, M7 has showed his true colors. He’s now a darling of the citizens and he can do away with parliament, period. How come he didn’t come out strong like this after the immoral, illegal moneys that exchanged hands during and after togikwatako [age limit debate]. He has achieved what he wanted he can now do away with parliament. It has always been like that.”
“And he’s going to fight hard to see that most of us don’t come back. If you think what he was referring to was a joke, wait for election time some people may not be nominated because of charges related to COVID-19 money.”
“Parliamentary Commission has to guide on what to do, as most MPs [have] already spent [the] money as per the Speaker’s guidance to buy medical [supplies] or food for the electorates.”
“Let MPs withdraw their ambulances [from the district Covid-19 task forces] or park it.”
“All of us should take [back] the money to [the Parliamentary] Commission.”
“I have mine and if Hon. Mwijukye thinks that’s the best way he can redeem the shame they have brought to Parliament. Then I can deliver it to him soonest.”
“Theft is sanctioned by NRM! They have stolen billions, but we shall account for 20M from consolidated fund. I didn’t pick the Shs 200m courtesy of Yoweri for age limits. Nothing to do with Parliamentary Commission. Yoweri is the [******]. The voters must know!!! He can steal the votes…”
“The most important thing, H.E has [done] today is discrediting Parliament and knowing that it’s always useful, dumped and reusable.”
“The way to straighten things out is for Parliament to use the remaining term of expose the rot in government. Then people will think again, about who’re the looters of our country.”
“Colleagues most of us used the Shs 20m to alleviate the plight of our people at this time. [Parliamentary Commission] paid MPs initially without any instructions. The pay slips indicate it was facilitation. Since when have MPs accounted for such funds? Let’s put this money to good use and explain to voters. Giving it to the District Task Force is akin to putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. I’ve no shame, qualms about the money ’cause the whole lockdown cost me more than Shs 20m in responding to my constituents. Let’s keep focused & to the ground. I have not chewed a cent of that damned money. The Speaker should equally ignore the cheap populists from the high and mighty. Everyone will be looking for votes in a few months. The moral question will be, “What did U do for us when we were in need?” It’s all much ado about nothing. I wish HE could get the message, or even be taught a lesson by MPs.”
“If anyone of you wants praises from Kaguta’s son, just be working for him, don’t complain. Let him win in your constituency and you lose, you go begging for cheap favours, you will be his good friend. But for as long as you don’t dog him, begging, you are independent, he will fight until his last angel is dead.”
“I wonder what Odur and Karuhanga are doing now”
“They are waiting for their court fees; over a billion [Shillings] yet they spoiled names of colleagues for only Shs 20m.”
“There is a calculated move to weaken Kadaga and her institution. Because if you discussed with your fellow senior colleague and the speaker handled the matter by giving the guidelines, why do you come out in public to bash [her] again?”
“She’s also going to get his soft part and hit it hard that he will regret why he started hitting her.”
“The Speaker of Parliament must have been deceived by shallow minds within the commission. Otherwise, that’s not a commission fit to be headed by her. She is always smarter and clean.”
“Contradict her and put institution in total confusion. Now the commission headed by the Rt Hon Speaker has started receiving punches here! Terrible.”
“Of course guys have been conned and you now known him, as usual, the strategy is to phase out the whole lot with a few survivers if any. This time less than 5% would be best. Brace yourself to fight for your own survival politically.”
“The public was as if beginning to forget the money they chewed for lifting the age limit but now again ????”