Terego MP Kassiano Wadri is a founder-member of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). He became the first opposition chief whip of the Museveni era, and had a stint as acting leader of Opposition in the eighth Parliament.
Now the outgoing chairperson of Public Accounts committee (PAC), Wadri spoke to Deo Walusimbi about the continued squabbles in FDC, his experience in PAC and Major Rubaramira Ruranga's defection to NRM. Excerpts: How do you look back on the nearly two and a half years you have led PAC for?
We still have forensic audits which have consumed a lot of our time. Take an example of the financial impropriety in the OPM which took us time from November last year up to around April 2013 because we had to interface with over 100 witnesses. So, the work in this office is enormous.
We have only managed to clear the 2009 financial year and we are on 2010/11 and 2011/2012 concurrently.
Are you satisfied with your performance as a committee?
It can't be me to judge myself or my committee but I think we have done a reasonably good job. In the first year, we were able to churn out reports on misappropriation of resources and these were all in the 2009/2010 financial year.
We produced a report which focused on the unfair compensation that government extended to the four companies of Basajjabalaba. This scam involved Shs 142bn and this committee was able to come out with the secrets of all the clandestine deals and mentioned all the names of people who were involved in this scam.
And on a happy note, I will say that some of the recommendations were implemented and it is based on that that people like Hon Syda Bbumba and Prof Khiddu Makubuya had to be relieved of their duties.
It is still because of our recommendations that Basajjabalaba is being arraigned in courts of law for uttering false documents and forging consent judgment.
How difficult has it been to chair a PAC dominated by NRM?
It is in line with Commonwealth parliamentary practice that oversight accountability committees are chaired by opposition. It is simply to give you the impression that even if you are a doctor, you can't be operated by yourself but you must get another person to operate you. While you are chairing PAC under the circumstances that we are operating in, there are challenges.
But they can be mitigated in the sense that all parties [promised the public] that they would make sure that there is zero tolerance to corruption. So [when] you come to PAC, you make sure that your political ideology and your political powers are left at the door and you will get them back after the meetings.
[Hence] we make our hearings public in the presence of media; every other person will be taken to check whether he/she is there for his/her political colours or for the interest of the masses to ensure that there is value for [money].
However, there are instances where political overtones come in [especially on issues concerning] senior persons especially those from NRM. Feelers are sent to members from the majority party, that 'this is one [of] your own; you must save his/her head' and this is even seen further more when it comes to our recommendations.
There are recommendations that we make which are so biting but might not be able to sail through on to the floor. Even after our own members from NRM have assented to them, there are instances where with time they also change positions.
Can you cite examples?
We had recommended under one of our strong recommendations that the governor Bank of Uganda, Tumusiime-Mutebile, that the appointing authority relieves him of his duties because he had a direct hand in the disbursement of Shs 142bn to Basajjabalaba.
But as time went on, the president, who is also the chairman of NRM, started [calling] NRM MPs in the caucus and he ordered them to change the positions to the extent that at the end of the day, all recommendations which had been agreed upon by all were defeated.
But some people accuse you of writing weak recommendations... of handling grand thieves with kid gloves...
I know people complain about our recommendations but when we make a recommendation that let the appointing authority take a disciplinary action, [it's] because he is the only person responsible for those who are in civil service and politicians. We can't, as a committee, recommend that 'dismiss so and so' because we don't have that mandate. The problem is people failing to understand the limit of the powers of PAC.
For example, if somebody has stolen something, I cannot come out to say, 'prosecute'. That is not within my powers but all I can is to recommend to police to further investigate with a view of referring the matter to the DPP who will then prefer charges against persons.
Are you ready to be dropped from this committee in case a looming reshuffle decides so?
Before you join any game, you must know the rules and regulations. Every after two and half years, it is prescribed in our rules of procedure that you have your office renewed or it ends there and you go elsewhere.
If it comes out that I am reviewed and found not worthy or somebody says that you have done your bit of it, that is it because it is prescribed in our rules just like if you are a commissioner, after two and half years, your service is supposed to be reviewed.
What would you miss about PAC?
There is nothing I will personally miss but I will miss getting more knowledge in audited books of accounts by the auditor general about the rotten [nature] of this government because when you are here probing these people, you get a lot of information which an ordinary MP who doesn't belong to PAC will not get.
How would you advise your successor?
A person who comes in this office must be prepared to give up his/her leisure time and do all this reading; but for me, I will say that I have done my bit and I will hand over to whoever is asked to come over and do work.
Is it true that you wanted to be the Leader of Opposition in the ninth Parliament?
When the eighth Parliament expired and we went into the ninth Parliament, I knew that the position of the Leader of Opposition was going to be elective and at that time, I showed interest and I started to campaign among the members of NEC who were supposed to be the electoral body to elect.
As I went on with these campaigns, I was told that please, don't waste time campaigning this thing is not going to be elective, they don't want NEC to elect, they want it appointive and when they made it appointive, I left it to the whim of the person who was supposed to appoint and that person went on to appoint. What do you make of Dr Besigye's decision to appoint Mafabi instead of subjecting him to vote?
I don't want to talk about Dr Besigye; he is still around and that would need him to answer but the impression to me is that he had been empowered.
Did you have any problem with his decision?
But what more should I say? If something is elective and you later make it appointive, what more do you want me to say? If something is appointive, you make a decision basing on the side you have woken on.
There is a perception that those of you who were interested in the LOP job have ganged up against Mafabi's Shadow cabinet?
I am not a member of the Shadow cabinet: how can I fail Hon Mafabi in managing his Shadow cabinet? These are all adults; I challenge any Shadow cabinet minister to come out and say that I told him not to co-operate with Mafabi.
Each one of us has got his/her cross to carry. I have my cross to carry with these files you see; people are in their constituencies, I am here reading the Auditor General's report to prepare myself for a probe tomorrow; if I fail to do that, I have no any other person to blame, but myself.
The moment people begin to look at this review as a Nandala issue, that is where you miss the point because it is not about him; it is about a rule which was set.
There are so many misunderstandings among opposition MPs in Parliament; what is the main problem?
You can put two different people under the same social, economic, political environment to operate but the output will be different; the way you harness the environment surrounding your area of operation.
So, if there is confusion among MPs, then you have to ask the particular people who are at the helm of the management of opposition. If there is a problem with PAC, you will ask me and I will be able to answer because I am in charge of PAC.
The FDC has been rocked by squabbles since the tight race between Gen Mugisha Muntu and Nandala-Mafabi. Are they because of personal egos or there are genuine reasons for them?
If you find an organisation when there are no challenges coming forward, then know that organisation is dead. The most important thing that you must concern yourself with is, when these problems come up, how are they being managed? There is no family that has no quarrels.
Even in the Bible it is clearly written. The issue is as soon as a quarrel starts, pacification must also start so that at the end of the day, the quarrel doesn't go out of hand. In FDC, we have had these normal issues that have been concerning us until the November election of the party president.
This was not the first time for us to have party presidential elections and since this was one of the many, I did not see why we should have taken this trend but probably, it may be matters of ego because even if you lose in an election, you don't mourn forever, but you let it go and prepare yourself for the next election.
But these are the challenges; as senior leaders in the party, we have to garner efforts to bring us to the main fold.
Would you blame Besigye for failing to handle succession, or is it the party that has failed to manage life after him?
I don't want to sound as if I am faulting Dr Besigye because at one point we did in our meetings. It is on record that I am one of those who challenged him why he was cutting short his term of office, and he said he had done his bit and he wanted to go and play a leading role in other activities.
At that time, I felt it was bad for him to have left the leadership without finishing his term of office. Point number two: even after he had left, we have found ourselves in a situation where we as a party also erred. Is General Muntu supposed to end Besigye's term or he is going to lead the party for five years? What were we going for?
Did we want to get somebody just to finish the term of office of Dr Besigye?
I believe not, because our constitution is clear. If a person is elected by the delegates' conference for an post, the term of office is clearly spelt for the position like the party President it is five years and the three candidates who vied for this position went out canvassing for votes for three solid months and that could not have been just for finishing Dr Besigye's term of office.
On top of that, it is not the first time that we have had instances where a key position of that nature has gone for filling. We had the case with the late Dr Sulaiman Kiggundu who was our first National Chairman.
When he passed on, we had four deputy chairs and National council picked one of them to complete his term of office. So, if it was about completing the term office, Dr Besigye had four deputies who should have replaced him to complete his term of office.
When this wasn't the case, we all knew that these people were running for a complete five-years term of office and that is what I believe is on the ground.
Doesn't Besigye have a role to play in ending this feud in your view?
As a key member of the party, I still think that he has a role to play because it is like if you are a grandfather in the house and you have distributed the responsibilities, it is up to you to say that no I think this is not going in the right direction.
It is not good that the party which we founded is left to slip through our fingers the way I see it and with all these things that are happening. It is not correct that we should leave the cohesion of the party to Gen Muntu as the party president, but we need to be behind him to make sure that he holds this party together.
How do you rate Muntu's performance so far?
It will be wrong for me just to rate Gen Muntu. I must rate him in a contextual manner because he has not got the time to go out and work as the Party President. One leg is in the field trying to mobilise and one leg is saying no you are not the party President come and appear before the commission; so, his time has been wasted in petty petitions.
What does Maj Rubaramira's defection mean to FDC as a party and the opposition as a whole ahead of the 2016 elections?
Ha ha ha... I have been asking myself: Maj Ruranga, of that age, to come out and say that he is crossing because he feels that it is NRM which can successfully fight HIV/Aids; I wonder whether NRM now consists of medical personnel. Even if so, it is not a medical issue but both medical and social. Really, at that age, starting to change positions... I think my own conscience will be in balance because eating your own words is laughable.
In my language there is a proverb that if one [blade of] grass falls from a house, it will not leak. And I will want to believe that even if Ruranga has left us, that is not the demise of FDC. After all, he left FDC in 2007, did FDC die? Didn't we go for elections? Why do you think that his public announcement that he has now defected to NRM will adversely affect us when he has not been with us for the last seven years?
What does it reflect to Mafabi camp of which he was the campaign manager?
That is the issue I ask myself: is this what Ruranga wanted on him coming back [and] when he was the campaigning manager of Hon Mafabi? Did he come to manage the campaigns with a view that he wanted to take the party to NRM? Was that his intention? Because if it is not, having left us seven years back, why does he only come for a short while and then do what he did?
The Baganda have a saying that if you are the owner of a mad dog, you must hold the chain very tightly so that it doesn't go around biting people. So what does it now mean that manager of a campaigning task force has defected? How does that impact on the group that he was managing. Was this out of the group he was managing? Was it in their full knowledge? These are the questions which I find difficult to answer myself.
If the same people who used to say so and so is this, we were all shocked to see a key architect of the campaigns defecting. So, now whom do we believe?
It is also claimed that you are among opposition politicians who NRM is courting ...
I cannot talk for everybody, but for myself because I don't police every any other person. As far as I am concerned, no body from NRM has ever approached me in order for me to cross. Let me tell you, my coming back to Parliament in 2011 was not an easy thing.
I was heavily fought by NRM using all sorts of tricks, resources and the fact that I have comeback to Parliament trough that heat, what makes you believe that I should soon forget about it and begin thinking of going the other side?
Can there be any justification for any FDC member or from the opposition to defect to NRM?
There is no justification for that. In any case, there is more justification for people from NRM to join the FDC because if you are to look at a few documents, you will realise that NRM people need to jump away from the sinking ship.
I want to tell you the rot in the NRM government in terms of corruption scandals that this country has been rocked with. Look at 2009, where we had Shs 24.59bn given to Bassajjabalaba, in 2006 we had Shs 600bn lost in Global fund, in 2007 we had Shs 47bn misappropriated under Chogm then in 2012 we had Shs 262bn lost in the ministry of Public Services, the list is endless now, with such kind of rot, who will want to leave a clean sheet of paper and muddle himself in such mud?
How would you want to be remembered?
When God decides to call me, remember me for being very vocal on the issue of corruption in this country.