New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: OPM Fraud - First Lady Denies Taking Part

Kampala — The First Lady, Janet Kataaha Museveni, has refuted allegations that she participated in the multi-billion shilling theft scandal at the Office of the Prime Minister.

Last Thursday, when the Auditor General, John Muwanga met the public accounts committee (PAC) at Parliament, there were allegations that part of the foreign aid the Office of the Prime Minister received for northern Uganda and Karamoja was instead spent on journeys she made to Israel at least nine times in one month alone.

The trips were said to have cost sh143.6m.

Some Members of Parliament on Friday demanded that they meet her over the matter. But Mrs Museveni dismisses the allegations as false and malicious.

She explains that she went to Israel once to make an on-spot observation of the technology of watering dry lands, and did not use money meant for the poor in the north.

She castigates western youth MP Gerald Karuhanga who implied that a company called Jesus belonged to the First Lady and she appealed to Ugandans to search for the truth and fight evil.

Her statement:

The NTV evening newscast of November 8, announced how the First Lady has been 'pinned down' as being part of the OPM cash scam. They claim I travelled eight times to Israel in one month, taking with me hundreds of millions of shillings.

I know that there is a good number of Ugandans who are still in shock over this 'revelation'. That is what forces me to make this statement immediately, so that I can allay their fears.

In 2010, I was invited to Israel to make an on-the-spot observation of the methods they have used over the years to access water in that very dry part of the world, so that we could benefit from their experience in our struggle to change the face of Karamoja.

I was not able to honour the invitation for a long time, but in September 2010, I took advantage of the one time I was accompanying H.E the President to the United Nations General Assembly meeting to travel from Entebbe via Tel Aviv, Israel and then joined the President in London for onward travel to the New York meeting.

Therefore, the cost of the greater part of that journey was not paid for by OPM. Perhaps, I should add here for everybody's information that the information I now have is that the money that paid for this trip was not from PRDP funds.

This was a study tour I undertook for purposes of my work in the Karamoja region. As such, I have no apologies to make because I was not a tourist and I was not on a pleasure trip.

It is therefore painful to see how far some 'leaders' will go to distort the truth in order to achieve their own objectives.

This is not to say that some money was not stolen; it may have been, and if it was, the investigations will unearth the evidence to prove that. But why try to include my name "eight times"? Surely, even a child can judge that it is impossible for that to have happened in one month!

The voice of the newsreader on NTV that sounded so gleeful as he triumphantly announced that "the First Lady has been pinned down in the saga of corruption" for me was the most tragic, because it demonstrated the extent of malice and hatred that drives a lot of public reporting and that adds salt to the wound of the cancer of corruption.

We need to understand that corruption is not just stealing of public funds alone, but when the media, or politicians, falsely accuse people, for their own political gain, that is also corruption.

I cannot end this statement without commenting on what Hon. Gerald Karuhanga repeated many times on the news broadcast, specifically that the First Lady travelled eight times to Israel and that the AG's report also mentions a company which was doing business with OPM, under the name of Jesus.

He seemed to imply that this company belongs to me! Well, let me inform the public that the only business I transact with OPM is my service to Karamoja as specified by the appointing authority.

For that also I have done what is humanly possible to serve my country. If God is pleased with my effort, it is enough for me; after all, it is Him I serve.

In conclusion, let me appeal to the people of this great land to hold hands together and believe the truth where it is told and fight evil where it may be found.

This land is going to reject and eject those who poison the minds of its people as they take bribes from the thieves and speak on their behalf.

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