The Observer (Kampala)

16 November 2012

Uganda: Bigirimana Is Being Fought, Says Nsibambi

interview

The unraveling financial scandal at the Office of the Prime Minister continues to suck in more public officials, the latest being former Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi.

Prof. Nsibambi, who has a reputation as a clean man, has since been accused of what amounts to influence peddling and political meddling.

Accountant General Gustavo Bwoch reportedly told a committee of Parliament this week that Nsibambi and Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana caused the transfer of Samuel Wejula, the internal auditor who first unearthed the scam at OPM.

But in statement on Wednesday, Nsibambi denied Bwoch's allegations. Nsibambi also voiced some sympathy for the under-fire PS, Bigirimana, suggesting he was being fought politically. Nsibambi said even if he had pushed for the transfer, which he didn't, it would have been unprofessional of Bwoch to bow to the pressure of political leaders in the execution of his work.

Following his press statement, Michael Mubangizi pressed Nsibambi to answer some questions.

Were you surprised by the latest allegations linking you to the OPM scam?

I was very, very surprised because I have led a clean life. I was a prime minister for 12 years and there were no scandals I was personally involved in. I was very surprised by Bwoch's irresponsible statements.

I have got a feeling; I have suspicion that since I left a clean man, there are people who want to tarnish my name. People don't want clean leaders; they want to see everybody dirty. There is an attempt to tarnish political leaders. It's rivalry.

Do you know who these people are?

I don't know.

Are you surprised at all by what's happening at the Office of the Prime Minister?

I am not going to answer that because there is a police case. It would be subjudice. I can only clarify on matters against me.

Most revelations of huge money thefts happened when you were Prime Minister. Do you feel guilty?

Yes and No. But I can't deal with that now when there is a court case. I will say a lot more when it is over.

What are you going to do to the people tainting your name?

They won't (succeed) because I am a very clean person. That's why you see the Auditor General [AG] never found me culpable of anything.

MPs claim that money was diverted to finance your frequent trips abroad for treatment?

I don't know. It's the accounting officers to answer. But I believe money for treatment was there because I signed money for so many people to go abroad for treatment. Why should it be a peculiar case for me? Why? I have signed for so many people, including MPs, to go abroad for treatment.

Why should there be no money for my particular case? There was money, not only for my treatment but for others like (Third Deputy Prime Minister) Moses Ali, (Speaker of Parliament Rebecca) Kadaga and others. Why do you exaggerate mine? Why do you make it an issue?

How can this rot at OPM be resolved?

I will not answer that. But it will be resolved.

While the Auditor General doesn't pin you on anything, the public thinks that as prime minister during the time most of the stealing took place, you should take responsibility if not for being an accomplice, for doing nothing?

How do you know that no action was taken? How do you know?

There are reports of transgressions, breach of financial regulations, huge theft of public money and little about what you political leaders did to avert it?

You have to know that the PS will be going to PAC. He will answer. Don't ask me questions that should be put to the PS.

But the Auditor General cites instances where he (PS) never gave adequate answers regarding breaches?

It's because he is going to. It's not wise to preempt him because there are some other forces working against him. So he must speak at the right time.

You think he is being fought?

Everybody who is handling that post has opponents, including political leaders.

So do you think Bigirimana is clean?

Ha, ha, please don't ask me questions. I told you that I am not going to answer questions.

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