Uganda: Parliament Faces Backlash Over Shs10 Billion COVID-19 Cash

Parliament — Parliament has faced a public backlash for appropriating to the House Shs10b out of the Shs304b supplementary budget for the fight against Covid-19.

Ugandans took to different social media platforms and accused the MPs of greed and selfishness after reports indicated that each of them will receive Shs20m to sensitise their constituents against Covid-19.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Wednesday said the money is meant to support the committees follow-up on Covid-19 and also the MPs whose ambulances are already deployed for the fight against the pandamic.

Ms Hellen Kawesa, the acting spokesperson of Parliament, said: "The cash is not for individual MPs. It is for Parliament Covid-19 task force."

Parliament is represented to the national taskforce by two commissioners and two other MPs.

There are other committees that have been formed; whereas the Committee on Health continues to traverse the country to assess the level of preparedness by the Ministry of Health in case the Covid-19 situation becomes worse for the country.

Among the many Ugandans criticising Parliament is four-time Presidential candidate, Dr Kizza Besigye.

"Sincerely what is wrong with Uganda's leaders? Everywhere in the world, leaders are donating their earnings to help the Covid-19 fight. Uganda's leaders see an opportunity to increase their benefits. MPs getting more than $5000 each to help them fight covid-19. Stop this habit," Dr Besigye tweeted yesterday.

Mr Kenneth Kabagambe, the Executive Director of the National Association of People Living with Hepatitis B, used a WhatsApp group to rally people to demand for their share.

"Your MP has received Shs20m to fight covid-19. Call your area MP for your share," he posted.

Initially, the Shs10b was not part of the Shs284b supplementary budget presented to Parliament by the Finance Ministry. The Treasury had already released Shs20b to Ministry of Health to make the total supplementary budget of Shs304b.

"The MPs used their powers to appropriate to Parliament that money," said a source close to the budget office in Finance Ministry.

Mr Jim Mugunga, the spokesperson of the Ministry, said Finance was never consulted by the Budget Committee of Parliament before deciding to appropriate the Shs10m.

"....What I know is that Parliament is responsible for appropriation of available resources. This decision if indeed undertaken may have been done under that mandate," Mr Mugunga said.

The government Chief Whip , Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, was not available for comment. The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Betty Aol Ocan, said her office was still consulting about the rumoured share of money among MPs.

MPs speak

Mr Michael Kabaziguruka (Nakawa Division, FDC) said he would return the money like he did with the age limit cash.

"Even if I was to use it to buy food, it would buy like 800kgs of posho which cannot feed the 500,000 people in my area. But, also what would that money be for?" He asked.

Ms Angelline Osegge, the Woman MP for Soroti, said there must be a "clear agenda for MPs to pick that money" . She said has already used her salary to support trading centres with drums for hand-washing.

Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko said via his social media page that he would take the money and spend it on healthcare workers in his area and the vulnerable.

Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi said he instead had been receiving food from his electorates and does not need the Shs20m because he has been using the little he has to help his neighbours.

"If some MPs received the money, then it must have been a selective process which the budget committee and Parliamentary Commission need to clarify. If it is true as alleged that each MP has been given Shs20m, then it is very unfortunate and I will add that Uganda is doomed with such," he posted. A similar message was posted by Bududa District Woman MP Florence Namboozo.

Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba said he could not comment because he neither has an ambulance nor is he a member of any of the benefiting committees.

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