14 February 2013

Uganda: MPs React to OPM Probe Suspension

MPs have expressed mixed reactions over the Speaker's decision stopping the Public Accounts Committee probe into the Office of the Prime minister where officials are alleged to have siphoned billions of money.

Her communication to the House on Tuesday drew different reactions from MPs on both divides of the House with some saying it was the correct decision.

Others wondered how the House should treat future Parliamentary probes arising out of queries in the Auditor General's report, especially when Police takes over matters mid-way and refers files to the DPP and subsequent Prosecution in court.

PAC chairman, Kassiano Wadri (FDC) said the committee will be in a very awkward situation when the courts pronounce themselves on the matter, with them (committee) having held hearings but not reported anything to the House.

However, Speaker Kadaga stated that she had initially given the committee two weeks to complete their work so that they leave other bodies to also do their work. She said that the suspects have been charged and cases are going on in the courts of law.

Seeking the Speaker's guidance, Wilfred Niwagaba (NRM) said that the Constitutional Court in 2005 outlawed "a criminal trial by ambush", in reference to Parliamentary probes that are seen to be parallel to court processes.

To this, Kadaga replied; "If you can amend the rules and remove the sub-judice rule I will be happy."

Abdu Katuntu (FDC) said, "I do appreciate the dilemma you are in. There seems to be a conflict between our rules of procedure and the way we are working."

Quoting Article 164 of the Constitution, which makes all accounting officers accountable to Parliament; he said that the Constitution which makes the Auditor General submit his report to Parliament takes precedence over any law.

"The Auditor general reports are reports to Parliament but Police grabs the Auditor General's report before Parliament disposes of it and uses Parliament material for its investigations," he protested.

Katuntu advised that the legal heads can meet and see how to sort out the problem otherwise Parliament will not do any work.

Godfrey Kiwanda (NRM) sought guidance as to whether Parliament should not commence on any petition likely to be taken to court and how they would transact any business if that were the case.

As if to sum up the dilemma, Kadaga in conclusion referred members to Rule 64 of the Rules of Procedure on sub-judice.

"What do you want me to do? If you want to review the rules we may have to sit as the rules committee. For now temporarily hold on," she counseled.

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