Desirous to end a feud between him and the NRM group in Parliament, President Yoweri Museveni could end up paying Shs 108.9 million to each of the 459 MPs to facilitate their efforts against Covid-19.
The proposed budget is five times bigger than the Shs 10 billion what the MPs had allocated themselves which Museveni last week described as immoral and unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, Museveni announced that he had met a select committee of the NRM parliamentary leaders in which they agreed to create a constituency Covid-19 task force through which the MPs will channel support for their constituents.
“We agreed to form a constituency COVID-19 task force across the country for MPs to channel their support to their constituents. This is to avert pressure from individual leaders,” Museveni tweeted on Tuesday after the meeting at State House, Entebbe.
This meeting followed a series of other meetings that started last weekend after the 317 MPs that supported the deletion of the age limit clause from the Constitution turned rebellious against Museveni.
The rebellion was influenced by Museveni’s sharp criticism of the MPs’ taking of Shs 20 million each to support their personal initiatives against Covid-19. Museveni called the allocation immoral.
“It is morally reprehensible for MPs to give themselves money for personal use when the country is in such a crisis; totally unacceptable to me and the NRM. They have entered themselves into a trap and the best way out is to donate the money to the districts where they come from,” Museveni said in his April 28 speech to the nation, setting himself on a collision path with the MPs.
In response, the MPs sitting on the Budget Committee declined to approve a Shs 16 billion supplementary budget request to which among others is meant to capitalize two private companies.
The MPs using Museveni’s exact words termed the budget request as immoral and illegal.
In their WhatsApp group, the “Age Limit” MPs continued to mobilise against Museveni. His listening posts in the WhatsApp group understandably kept him posted on the developments forcing him to act swiftly and avert a revolt the MPs had planned for Tuesday, April 5, 2020, as Parliament reconvened.
At the weekend, Museveni met a group of MPs at the Nakasero State House to discuss the impasse. Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa coordinated this meeting which had in attendance the Ntenjeru North MP, Amos Lugoloobi who chairs the Budget Committee, Rubanda East MP, Henry Musasizi who chairs the Finance Committee plus NRM Parliamentary Commissioners; Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers), Safia Nalule (PWDs) and Solomon Silwany (Bukooli Central).
From State House, the group met again at Nankabirwa’s office on Monday to agree on proposals that they presented to Museveni in another meeting on Tuesday at the Entebbe State House.
It is this group together with other NRM Parliamentary Caucus leaders that drew the Shs 50 billion budget that they presented to Museveni.
The money will be managed a committee constituted by the MPs in their respective constituencies. The committee will have one of the sub-county chiefs and LC-III chairpersons in a specific constituency as members as well as a representative of the police and the district internal security officer (DISO).
“Negotiations are still on but we expect the final word on Friday,” an MP who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Witness.
As Museveni met with this group of MPs, at Parliament, the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga stopped MPs from reacting to Museveni’s April 28 speech.
The debate was started by Kira Municipality MP, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda who rose on a procedural matter accusing Museveni of attacking and undermining the institution of Parliament.
Ssemujju said that Museveni had portrayed MPs as greedy grabbing money at the expense of the population. Ssemujju questioned the President’s statement saying that it was the government that had failed to avail relief food to Ugandans forcing the electorate to seek support from their representatives.
He went to demand an explanation and an apology from the Executive regarding President Museveni’s comments against Parliament.
“If we allow the Head of State to start ordering me around like a shamba boy, tomorrow he will order me to donate my salary to a priest in my constituency. I will move formally that the Executive apologies to the House for what happened last week,” Ssemujju said.
Kalungu East MP Joseph Sewungu said that it was unfortunate that Parliament will end up not censoring any Minister in Cabinet over how Ugandans have been denied relief food despite an appropriation from Parliament.
Seeing the direction the debate was taking, Kadaga told the MPs that the matter would be discussed at a later stage, prompting Aruu MP Samuel Odonga Otto to accuse her of trying to shy away from the debate.
Kadaga said that she was not shying away from the debate but needed Parliament to move in an organized manner. She also noted that the matter concerning the money was still before the court and therefore MPs needed to discuss it after a court decision is made.