Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa found herself in a tricky situation after failing to convince chairpersons and deputies of the NRM-led committees in Parliament to accept President Yoweri Museveni’s alternative proposal for setting up of Constituency Covid-19 task forces.
Nankabirwa in the company of the NRM parliamentary caucus leadership on Friday met about 42 leaders of the various sectoral and sessional committees of Parliament as part of the consultations on a proposal to allocate Shs 50 billion to support MPs’ initiatives against the coronavirus pandemic.
Last Tuesday, Nankabirwa led a team of selected NRM leaders at Parliament to State House Entebbe for a meeting with Museveni during which the idea of giving each of the 459 MPs a Shs 108.9 million to finance their Covid-19 activities.
This was intended to ease tensions between the legislature and executive following President Museveni’s sharp criticism of MPs for allocating themselves Shs 20 million each for the same purpose.
While the proposal had calmed several NRM MPs, knowledgeable sources have told us that the Friday meeting shot down the idea reasoning that, any monies tagged to Covid-19 is “politically suicidal.”
“The general feeling is that instead of giving us money to cause us problems, [Museveni] should instead give us tangible items like hoes, posho, beans and cows to take to our constituents,” a source close to the meeting said.
This was after the meeting weighed options of how this money was going to pass through Parliament and finally to the individual MPs’ bank accounts without causing a storm.
The money is planned to be drawn from the consolidated fund and will most likely come as a supplementary budget request to Parliament.
Besides the morality part of it, the meeting also considered the fights in the districts over the Shs 156 million that was allocated to the district Covid-19 task forces and agreed that taking the Shs 108.9 million would be akin to inviting problems to their backyards.
“There is also the issue of duplication of work because we already have the national task force doing the same work as the district task force. You can’t create another structure at the constituency level. What will that task force do that the district is not doing? And besides, some districts like Lyantonde, Kiboga, Butambala etc are one constituency districts; you can’t have two separate committees doing the same work in the same area but with different funding lines,” the source said.
Nankabirwa confirmed to journalists at Parliament that the meeting had asked Museveni to drop the idea fearing that it would be misinterpreted by their electorates.
“They advised that the Constituency Covid-19 task forces should not even be talked about; if there are plans to create [the task forces], they should be abandoned much as it [the fund] responds to the pressures from their constituents,” Nankabirwa said.
She also revealed that the meeting resolved to ruge all NRM MPs to return to the Parliamentary Commission the Shs 20 million they received for Covid-19 activities.
But knowing the intensity of the feud between her master and Parliament Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, Nankabirwa is unwilling to let Museveni’s project collapse in her hands.
Kadaga already won hearts of many MPs with the Shs 20 million handouts which to some, among the 317 age limit MPs covered up for the Shs 15 million that remained on the total ‘thank you’ package that Museveni promised them after the amended the Constitution to allow him to stand again for president.
The Kiboga Woman MP will now delay her report to the President, and, is understood to have fixed another meeting with the ruling party’s regional whips in Parliament.
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, 2020, but insiders have told us that she may not achieve much without the backing of the leadership of the various committees of Parliament.
“The support that matters for this project is that of the committee chairpersons because the money they want to give us is a budget item. Budget requests are handled by committees not whips,” the source said.