By Emmanuel Dombo
I had restrained myself from making direct personal opinioneted comments about the 20M shillings that the MPs appropriated for themselves during supplementary budget approval. I had restrained myself, save for the few questions I have kept raising albeit with no answers.
As a former MP, I have ever been in a similar situation and as a former parliamentary commissioner, I have previously been involved in executing similar or related transactions. In order for parliament to pursue any negotiations of similar magnitude, it is important to have a genuine justification and then the Parliamentary Commission should devise an execution plan. In executions of this nature, it is important for the PC to covet the understanding of the president.
The other thing the parliament should be conscious about the times and the timing. At a time when government was pushing for austerity measures and the president of Uganda is at the forefront of a fundraising drive from the private sector, it was ill-advised for parliament to pursue a project that is counter to the current narrative.
What the MPs should have done would have been to negotiate with government to augment their quarterly release for the first quarter of the next financial year by the agreed amount. But this doesn’t substitute for the justification, because apparently that those who paid and those who were paid seem not to concur about why the money was even paid.
It defeats common logic and I know there could be people who declined contributing just because of the act of the MPs.
Although the Speaker of Parliament is the chairperson of the PC, it shouldn’t be her at the forefront of defending this transaction. This should have been the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commissioners to explain in a coherent way what the payment was intended for and why.
Unfortunately, every attempt by whoever raises more questions than answers. During this period, the members seemed to have chosen to put the speaker at the forefront, but her own public statements seem to have created more problems instead.
For instance, she seemed to have intimated to the MPs not to mention anything about the payment as they may not know the reasons why, forgetting it is the MPs themselves who appropriated the money! So if they don’t know the reasons why, then who will?
The other reason that was alleged to have been said by the speaker was to wonder why the courts of law should poke their noses into welfare issues of parliament? I don’t know whether indeed this was a welfare issue? All welfare issues originate from the PC after a careful evaluation and discussion with government in the commission where the minister for Finance and the PM are members of the commission.
Given the controversy sarrounding this payment, it is highly unlikely that there is a commission minute about that matter.
I have also read that some MPs may be required to appear before the disciplinary committee. Whereas it is important to safeguard the reputation of parliament, it is important to ensure that the MPs themselves have complied with their own rules in order not to unnecessarily open up to litigation.
If I may just ask, can an MP be fairly tried by a committee whose members were direct beneficiaries of the money under contention? It is only time, and perhaps the learned people who can tell! So whereas I would like to emphasize with the MPs upon this self inflicted saga, it is incumbent on them usually to evaluate and reflect on all the decisions and their implications before they are executed. Just food for thought.
The author is a former Bunyole East Member of Parliament and Commissioner.