27 November 2012

Uganda: Now Angry MPs Move On Amama, Two Ministers

MPs from northern Uganda have decided to put the blame regarding the abuse of donor funds in the Office of the Prime Minister at the feet of the political leadership.

The MPs, united under the Greater North Parliamentarians Association, meet on Wednesday, to draft a resolution that would essentially call for the Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, and the current and former ministers for northern Uganda, Amuge Otengo and David Wakikona, respectively, to step aside. Wakikona is currently minister of state for Trade.

Aruu County MP Odonga Otto told The Observer yesterday that the ministers should take political responsibility "because they either connived with the perpetrators of the financial scandal or kept silent as funds meant for the Peace, Recovery and Development Programme, PRDP, were diverted.

"For instance, it is reported by the Auditor General that close to Shs 1.7bn meant for PRDP was used to buy cars for ministers in the OPM. Why did they accept these cars?" Otto asked.

The MPs also say the under-fire Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana should respect the parliamentary resolution that called for his interdiction. "If he is not willing to respect it, we want to give an ultimatum," Aswa County MP Reagan Okumu said today.

An estimated Shs 50bn is believed to have been mismanaged or swindled at the OPM. Angry donors who include Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Britain and Denmark responded by cutting aid.

"We are going to have a general meeting to ponder the way forward. Because if we don't come up with resolutions that reflect a common position, we are likely to be misunderstood," said Okumu, who chairs the Acholi Parliamentary Group.

The MPs meeting at Parliament will bring together lawmakers from the Acholi, Teso, Karamoja, West Nile and Lango regions. The Observer has learnt that among other resolutions, they seek to urge the government to recover the funds lost.

Meeting donors, Museveni:

Some MPs also want donors to re-instate the aid. "You see cutting aid will not solve the problem; it will instead affect our people so we want this to be reversed," Agago MP Amos Okot told The Observer.

But some legislators, including Obongi County's Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, argue that donors are right to suspend the aid.

"This money, even when it comes, goes to a small group instead of the intended beneficiaries. Why should we waste our time pleading for something that will, in the long run, benefit a few?" Fungaroo said.

Okumu suggested the restructuring of the PRDP implementing structure. "The donors should start sending this money directly to their agencies which will then deal with our districts in the implementation of the identified projects," he said.

The group also plans to meet President Museveni and urge him to transfer PRDP to another government institution. However, some MPs doubt a resolution would achieve much.

"Even if a recommendation is carried by Parliament recommending the resignation of ministers, the final person to approve it is the President whose position is well known," said Krispus Ayena (Oyam North).

"Even Article 118 [of the Constitution], which provides for the vote of censure, enjoins the President to take appropriate action after a resolution of censure has been made by Parliament," he said, further underlining how much it all depends on President Museveni.

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