24 August 2014

Uganda: MPs Fail to Account for NRM's Sole Candidacy Cash

Friday's NRM MPs caucus meeting at State House, Entebbe, had its equal share of drama and controversy.

After hours of discussion, President Museveni, the day's chairman, shockingly learnt that the flowery report that purportedly showed that his 2016 sole candidacy bid was endorsed by over 1,000 sub-counties was deeply flawed. It turned out that the report was based on accounts of 89 out of the 263 MPs, funded to the tune of Shs 6bn to popularise his sole presidential bid.

Majority of the party's MPs have failed to write reports of their April and May tours and account for the money. The reports - of the popularisation campaigns and of the 2010 chaotic NRM primaries - were presented to the caucus on Friday. The Shs 6bn sole candidacy campaigns in April and May were marred by money fights between MPs and their constituents.

Each of the party's 263 MPs was given Shs 4m per sub-county in his/her constituency; but barely a third of the MPs were able to give both full accountability and reports of the sub-county meetings.

According to their terms of reference, each MP was required to compile a report and attach a copy of minutes from each consultative meeting, and also explain how they spent the money.

Few constituents:

A party insider told The Observer that President Museveni was rattled on learning that the report he had received in the full glare of cameras was based on returns from only 89 constituencies. Museveni ruled that debate on the report be shelved until September 1, the deadline for all MPs to submit their reports and accountability.

"The speed [of submitting reports] has been slow and we are now giving them a deadline of a few more days to submit their reports," Caucus Vice Chairman David Bahati said on Saturday.

"But we know that the activity was carried out in all constituencies apart from [Amama Mbabazi's] Kinkiizi West and Kampala, plus some few isolated cases, but the overall objective was achieved," Bahati added.

The meeting was delayed by about an hour as Museveni held talks with South Sudan President Salva Kiir. When he finally joined the meeting, it remained closed until after one and a half hours when journalists were called in for the ceremonial handover of the reports.

Katereera MP Hatwib Katooto led the MPs in singing praises for Museveni. A few MPs, however, remained glued to their seats. Earlier, while receiving the reports, Museveni said they were good because they highlighted areas that needed to be attended to urgently.

"The issue of the sole candidature will be resolved by the NRM national conference. This was a specific effort that was in response to some happenings [in the party] that needed to be responded to urgently," Museveni said. "The good thing is that we used that response to the happenings to address other issues... "

The president said that from the reports, he had learned that the party's secretariat was not in touch with grassroots structures.

Museveni declined to delve into details in the presence of journalists. Mbabazi, for most of the early part, was absent, arriving after 1pm. His absence seemed to excite some MPs.

Museveni ring-fenced:

Among issues in the NRM primaries report compiled by a seven-man committee, led by Wakiso Woman MP Rosemary Nansubuga Sseninde, is the proposal to bar all party leaders, apart from Museveni, from holding two offices. In a press briefing shortly after handing over the report, Sseninde said her committee thought that the secretary general (SG) should not hold an elective office.

"We all know that our SG is the prime minister, which is a busy office. That position [SG] should have a person who is not in elective politics; who should not be assigned any other duties," Sseninde said.

That recommendation was based on her committee's working tours to Namibia, Ghana and Tanzania, where they compared notes with the ruling parties.

"In the countries where we benchmarked, we discovered that their SGs are not assigned any other duties so that they can concentrate," Sseninde said.

Later, as she read the report, it become clearer that the committee did not want all party members seeking elective office to hold leadership positions in the party.

"Their argument is that if someone is an MP or a chairperson of a district, they can use their positions to compromise the party leadership in their areas, that is why they are suggesting that it should only be Museveni who can hold office as president and at the same time as party chairman," a source said.

There were murmurs of disapproval as Sseninde read this recommendation. She said the issue had been also contentious during the committee hearings.

"She told us that they had failed to build consensus on the issue because three committee members are leaders in the party structures while the other four who supported it are not," one MP said. "But that would be unfair because some of us have been using Parliamentary facilitation to do party work in our constituencies and districts."

Mbabazi protests:

Mbabazi's reluctance to hold consultative meetings on Museveni's sole candidature in his Kinkiizi West constituency came up for discussion, but Museveni was reluctant to give a direct response.

But the party, sources said, was buoyed by the Kanungu traders' decision last month that handed Museveni a yellow-painted chair and a plaque, announcing him as their sole 2016 candidate.

"That [chair] in a way gave us the position of the people in [Mbabazi's constituency] as far as the Kyankwanzi resolution is concerned," caucus Publicity Secretary Evelyn Anite told journalists on Friday.

Mbabazi reportedly said the reports were full of falsehoods which needed to be clarified.

"He [Mbabazi] said that there were some truths in the reports but some other issues were not true and he needed to clarify on them; but he was not given the opportunity since [Museveni] had already ruled that we stay debate," an MP told The Observer.


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