3 February 2013

Uganda: Mbabazi, Janet Face Off in PAC

A parliamentary inquiry into the swindle of about Sh50 billion of largely donor funds from the Office of the Prime Minister, meant for the reconstruction of war-ravaged northern Uganda has summoned two big names; First Lady Janet Museveni and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

The Vice Chairperson of the Parliamentary Accounts committee, Paul Mwiru (FDC, Jinja East), said the two were expected on February 6.

"It is true. As the committee, we have to meet Mbabazi and Janet Museveni to give their views regarding the accusations against them into our inquiry at the Office of the Prime Minister because they are both ministers and the political heads of these ministries so we expect them to have supervised these projects," Mwiru said.

He explained that Mbabazi will specifically explain how his official new Mercedes Benz was acquired. Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana reportedly withdrew Shs 20.1bn from the Crisis Management Account to buy ministers in his office new cars, including a brand new Mercedes Benz for Mbabazi. He will also explain why he blocked the transfer of the key suspect in the swindle, former Principal Account Geoffrey Kazinda.

He said Janet is expected to explain her nine travels to Israel in one month. Janet, who is the MP for Ruhaama county and minister for Karamoja Affairs which falls under the OPM, is said to have travelled nine times to Israel in one month last year using at least Sh143.6 million in donor funds meant for the rehabilitation of Northern Uganda and Karamoja.

Janet, according to the Auditor General's report, travelled to Israel in November last year. The Observer also understands that Kazinda is expected, despite a court order against his appearance in Parliament.

However, MPs remain still split on whether Kazinda should be produced from jail to defend himself in PAC especially in face of a strong court objection to the move. Despite the fact that the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, ruled that Kazinda should appear before PAC, some MPs on the committee, led by Eddie Kwizera, are still insisting that he should not appear because in so doing PAC would violate the sub judice rule given that the matters are before court.

"The speaker ruled on this matter, so the sub judice rule does not arise and that issue has not come to my attention yet, maybe it will be brought to me later but I don't think the members of the committee can be divided over having a witness before us because we all aim at one goal," Mwiru said, adding: "We expect to have Kazinda in any way possible because he is the principal witness in the matter only that we are now in talks with court to see how we shall get him on a day when he is not going to court".

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