People & Power
How the 9th Parliament took a wrong turn
Posted Sunday, December 22 2013 at 00:00
In May 2011, the 9th Parliament was ushered in in a pompous function in Kampala. That year, the legislators proved they were out to redeem the image of an institution that the public had lost trust in. However, less than two years down the road, the same House is just a shadow of its former self. Sunday Monitor analyses when and what went wrong.
Rarely has a public institution inspired so much hope in the citizens like the current Parliament did in its first sessions in 2011.
Legislators managed to shed off the dented image the electorate had about the House as an institution that was underperforming in most of its legislative duties like watching over the government’s expenditures and passing laws.
Whereas the 7th and 8th Parliaments made history for the wrong reasons, the current crop of legislators started out like they were on a mission to redeem the image of the House.
In 2005, members of the 7th Parliament gained notoriety when they pocketed Shs5 million to delete presidential term limits from the Constitution while the 8th Parliament opted to take no action when more than Shs500 billion was lost in dubious procurement deals ahead of the 2007 Chogm summit.
The 9th Parliament, however, started on a path of recouping public trust in the Legislature by seeking to rectify the errors committed by their predecessors. There was no better way to do that than to launch a war on corruption, the Achilles Heels of the previous legislators.
In October 2011, five months into its first session, Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga tabled a dossier titled: “Brief on Uganda’s Oil deals”. Mr Karuhanga alleged that senior Cabinet ministers- Amama Mbabazi (Prime Minister), Sam Kutesa (Foreign Affairs), and Mr Hilary Onek (then Internal Affairs) pocketed bribes worth millions of dollars from foreign oil companies.
Lwemiyaga County MP petitioned the Speaker for a special House sitting where stormy debates offered Ugandans a sneak peek into an oil sector hitherto shrouded in secrecy.
Questions were raised over the Production Sharing Agreements that the government had agreed with oil companies. However, demands from MPs for the accused ministers to step aside to pave way for a thorough probe were shot down as President Museveni pleaded their innocence.
Nonetheless, the House decided to institute a committee chaired by former minister Michael Werikhe to investigate the accusations against the ministers. Recently, the committee’s report leaked, indicating that no evidence pinning the ministers had been found.
But as the government was spiritedly staving off demands from MPs for the resignation of ministers, another scandal was unfolding in its backyard.
Ms Kabakumba Matsiko, the minister for the Presidency, was adjudged by police to have been illegally using UBC equipment at her Masindi-based Kings FM radio station.
Ms Kabakumba, it emerged, had used her previous docket as Information and National Guidance minister, where she was supervising UBC, to fraudulently access the equipment.
In a rare move, MPs from the ruling party joined their Opposition and Independent-minded counterparts to force Ms Kabakumba to resign amid censure threats. She became the first scalp of the anti-graft fight.
The year 2012 started with a more re-invigorated House; the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) released a damning report pinning ministers Khiddu Makubuya (then, General Duties) and Syda Bbumba (then, Gender) in the loss of Shs160b to businessmen Hassan Basajjabalaba (Shs142 billion) and Col John Mugenyi (Shs14 billion)
What was standing out in the forced resignations was the manner in which Parliament was acting in unison, in stark contrast to the past where NRM members would use their numerical strength to gang up against any cause fronted by the Opposition.
Proceedings at the House elicited faith in the voters and built optimism that members could go about legislative work, without pandering to the whims of the Executive.
This explains why the ruling party had to devise means of isolating the “trouble causers”—the independent minded legislators who even after the mysterious death of their colleague (Cerinah Nebandah) had remained focused on the bigger picture: Uganda.
With one MP (Vincent Kyamadidi of Rwampara) pardoned and allowed back in the party, four other outspoken legislators—Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central) and Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) have since been dismissed from the party.