Gender Minister Syda Bbumba and Prof. Khiddu Makubuya, a minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, were forced to resign yesterday as President Museveni tried to draw a line on the Hassan Basajjabalaba compensation scandal. Government sources told this newspaper that the ministers’ position became untenable after a Cabinet sub-committee chaired by Defence Minister Crispus Kiyonga recommended that it could not defend the duo without causing more damage to government.
It is the third ministerial resignation over corruption-related offences after former Information Minister Kabakumba Matsiko fell on her sword in December.
The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has been investigating how companies controlled by Mr Basajjabalaba received Shs142.6 billion in compensation for city properties despite the Auditor General finding that the companies owed government over Shs900 million.
A PAC report tabled before Parliament for debate accused the two ministers of causing financial loss to the taxpayer and abuse of office for their role in approving the inflated compensation claims.
Gen. Moses Ali, the stand-in leader of government business, announced their resignation before Parliament yesterday afternoon before the two officials, who are also MPs, made personal explanations before the House.
“The cabinet sub-committee concurs with PAC that there was substantial financial loss to government and cabinet has directed the Attorney General to recover monies in excess of what is due to the compensated companies,” Gen. Ali said.
The former Ministers denied any wrong doing before the House, promising to cooperate with investigators until their names are cleared.
Prof. Makubuya wore a brave face as he read his statement, evoking biblical phrases about there being a time for everything but there was a pained sense of injustice in the voice of the law professor.
He quoted the biblical Ecclesiastes and said his time to exit Cabinet had come. He also said no body was born a Minister.
He added; “In view of the foregoing, I undertake to resign my current deployment as Minister for General Duties and as soon as am able to comply with the necessary Legal and Administrative procedures.”
Ms Syda Bbumba also pleaded innocence to the allegations against her.
“I handled the compensation in accordance with my mandate as Finance Minister and I plead innocent. I never at any one time broke any law, I followed the well known principle that the Attorney General’s opinion is binding. My role was that of an implementer and although I have taken responsibility, I am innocent,” Ms Bbumba said.
Neither Prof. Makubuya nor Ms Bbumba showed any signs of surprise, though.
There was an air of inevitability over the resignations after close to 200 MPs from the ruling NRM and the opposition signed a motion to censure the two ministers but the swiftness of the capitulation signalled an attempt by State House and Cabinet to swim with the tide of popular public opinion.
President Museveni has gone to great lengths to distance himself from the transaction whose beneficiary is a senior member of the NRM and a renowned financier and kingmaker in the party, telling MPs on Pac that he gave general directives for the businessman to be compensated without specifying amounts.
What others say
Dr Crispus Kiyonga, the Defence minister, sought to drive the point home last evening, telling Parliament that the resignation proved that the NRM is keen to fight corruption but opposition MPs sought to keep the spotlight on Mr Museveni.
Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu, who is also shadow justice minister and attorney general, said: “The Presidency must reform; they must know there are laws in this country and must be respected.”
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, was more scathing, reminding the House of President Museveni’s mocking views about former President Geoffrey Binaisa turning State House into a clearing house for pro-formas.
“For him he is not issuing pro-formas,” Mr Mafabi said, “he is issuing invoices.”
Museveni still in picture
While the Pac report does not directly implicate Mr Museveni, the President is likely to face more pressure to jettison corrupt members of his inner circle.
Apart from the three who have resigned, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, Chief Whip John Nasasira and junior minister Mwesigwa Rukutana asked to step aside last year after they were charged with corruption-related offences.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Internal Affairs minister Hilary Onek, who were both accused in Parliament of receiving bribes from oil companies alongside Mr Kutesa, denied the allegations and have refused repeated calls by MPs to step aside pending the completion of the investigation.
A senior government official this newspaper spoke to said their fate was long written in their own blood on the walls of the cabinet room.
“The President had already demoted them from Finance and Justice because of their role in the matter,” he said. “They were always going to be asked to jump when the heat turned up.”
The resignation of the two ministers brings the number of vacant cabinet positions to about 11.
Three ministers are facing corruption accusations in courts law, three have been forced to resign over corruption allegations and five were not approved by Parliament over lack of academic qualifications and questionable moral standing in the eyes of the public.
After adopting the PAC report, the Speaker adjourned the House to Tuesday next week.
She said when debate returns, members will go through recommendation per recommendations to effect the proposed amendments to the report.
RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE HOUSE
• Hon. Makubuya and Hon. Bbumba should take political & personal responsibility, IGG and CID should investigate them and take appropriate action
• President takes note of the violations of the laid down guidelines and procedures by his subordinates and moves to rectify them
• President institutes performance management contracts systems for ministers and public officials.
• Governor BoU should be held personally responsible for the loss incurred.
• Governor be relieved on of his duties and IGG and CID investigate him and take appropriate action.
• Government recovers from HABA Group all monies paid including applicable taxes, in excesses of what was determined by the Auditor General.
• HABA Group be investigated for uttering forged documents.
• Former KCC Town Clerk Ssegane be liable for abuse of office & causing financial loss.
• Former Solicitor General (Justice Billy Kainamura) and current Solicitor General (Harriet Lwabi) be investigated and a substantive SG be appointed.
• Attorney General chambers be restricted and streamlined
• That the Government Compensations Act, a law that shall stipulate priority schedule of Government compensations and emergency cases, inter alia, be enacted
• Makubuya be held liable for causing financial loss by unilaterally approving additional compensation (Shs8.1bn).
2007. Basajjabalaba acquires leases from KCC to develop Nakasero Market, Owino Market and the Constitution Square, leading to protests from vendors.
February 3, 2010. Government commits to paying debts owed by Basajjabalaba Hides and Skins owned by Mr Basajja to Standard Chartered Bank and Stanbic Bank. Central Bank becomes the company’s surety.
March 5, 2010. Solicitor General requests for Shs46b to compensate Haba Group also owned Basajjabalaba. The money is included in the supplementary national budget.
November 13, 2010. President Museveni writes to Makubuya, Central Bank Governor Tumusiime Mutebile and Ms Bbumba instructing them to oversee a speedy compensation for Haba Group’s claims.
November 25 2010. Mr Mutebile issues letters of comfort to several commercial banks enabling Haba Group to access finances. December 21, 2011- President Museveni addresses PAC. He says he never knew how much Mr Bassajabalaba was to be paid in compensation. He orders any excess payment be recovered immediately.
February 3, 2012. Mr Museveni writes to PAC, giving additional information on what Bbumba and Makubuya had told him.
Who are Makubuya, Bbumba?
Born on July 30, 1949, Prof Khiddu Makubuya joined politics in 1988. He was first elected to the House in 1996 as a member for Katikamu South constituency. According to information on Wikipedia, Prof. Makubuya was first appointed State Minister for Luweero Triangle in the office of the President, and in 1998, he was made state minister for Foreign Affairs (international Cooperation, a portfolio he held until April 5 1999, when he was appointed Minister of education and sports.
From January 14, 2005, to May 2011, he served as Justice Minister and Attorney General, the office from which he committed the sins which made him accept political responsibility and resign.
By the time of his resignation, yesterday, Prof. Makubuya was serving as the Minister for General Duties in the office of the Prime Minister, a position he held from May 27, 2011, replacing Janat Mukwaya. The former Minister holds a First Class Honors Bachelor of Laws from Makerere University and Doctor of Juridical Science from Yale Law School. Before joining active politics, Prof Makubuya, who is also a partner n a private law firm Kasolo & Khiddu Advocates, worked as a Special Assistant at the Faculty of Law, Makerere University, in 1974 and 1975. Prof. Makubuya was a member of the Uganda Constitutional Commission, which was instrumental in drawing up the draft of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.
He was also a member of the Commission of Inquiry into the violation of Human rights.
Ms Syda Bbumba is a professional Accountant and banker.
The Nakaseke Woman Member of Parliament was born on January 7, 1952, and she went to Trinity College, Nabbingo, for High School before getting a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Accounting.
Before her resignation yesterday, Ms Bbumba had served as minister since 1996. She started as Minister of Economic Monitoring which was upgraded to full Cabinet portfolio in one year.
She later served as minster for Energy from 2006 to 2008 and later she was appointed to be minister of gender, labour and social affairs, a portfolio she served for eight years.
In 2009, she became the first minister of finance before being sent back to the gender port folio in the last Cabinet reshuffle. In her farewell remarks, Ms Bbumba said: “I have contributed to this country, for 15 years and 9 months untainted record. I started as a young girl and I was among, with my six brothers who died in FRONASA to liberate this country, one of the few people who were part of the beginning of the liberation struggle; the liberation war which ushered in the rule of law and constitutionalism we are enjoying in this House.”
Ms Bbumba also served in the Interim Electoral Commission in 1996 and as the minister of Finance; she won the prestigious award of the best Finance Minister of Africa.