I went to Israel only once - Janet
Posted Thursday, March 14 2013 at 02:00
First Lady Janet Museveni yesterday described accusations that she took part in the multi-billion financial impropriety in the Office of the Prime Minister as blatant falsehoods.
The President’s wife, who is also the Minister for Karamoja, was named in the Auditor General’s special audit report on the scam in OPM as having travelled to Israel nine times in one month using PRDP funds. It was also alleged that the Office of the Karamoja Minister received Shs3.5 billion in office imprest.
“I wish to state that I travelled to Israel once in September 2010 to try and look for a lasting solution to the water problem in Karamoja and not the so many eight or nine times famously reported in the media,” Ms Museveni said at the Public Accounts Committee hearing. “This blatant falsehood was sold by those who sought to cover up their misdeeds, why should lies be told, and yet we claim to be fighting corruption?”
Poised and occasionally smiling, Ms Museveni was unruffled under cross-examination which went on for more than five hours. She told MPs who were pushing her to give details on management of funds in her docket that as a minister she does not deal with money and that her travels to Karamoja are financed by State House.
The committee asked her personal assistant, Ms Irene Kawuma, to avail details on the funding for the First Lady’s trip to Israel. Mr Gerald Karuhanga (Youth, Western) took issue with the First Lady for having attacked him in the media just because he read what was in the AG report but PAC chairperson Kassiano Wadri was quick to advise the two to resolve their differences amicably.
Asked whether she knew about the Shs3.5 billion in office imprest to her office which former Principal Accountant, Mr Geoffrey Kazinda, diverted, Ms Museveni denied any knowledge.
“I want to say categorically [that] I have no knowledge of this imprest. I don’t deal with money and I don’t even think we have a budget line for office imprest but nonetheless the Accounting Officer should be having the details.”
Committee members criticised the First Lady for drawing money for her official trips to Karamoja from State House funds while others suggested her docket suffered from inadequate political supervision. But she said: “Any objective minded person will surely know that our efforts in Karamoja have not been in vain. I have diligently and passionately carried out my roles as a political leader of the sector. Karamoja has... become my second home. I visit it regularly as I do to Ruhama.”
Mr Wadri, however, wondered how the financial impropriety could have occurred “under the watchful eye” of Ms Museveni yet she had told the committee that she usually receives briefs from the technical people.
Again, Ms Museveni said: “I am not going to be drawn into discussing money, as a minister I am doing political supervision very well and I am very proud that what’s in Karamoja today was not there before.”
Ms Museveni said the reason she is getting facilitation for her entourage to Karamoja from State House is that she never wanted to encroach on the limited budget meant for the people of Karamoja. The First Lady had come with a documentary to illustrate her work in Karamoja but there was no time to view it.
Sources who attended a closed-door PAC meeting after the session closed told the Daily Monitor that the it was resolved that they meet OPM Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana again and send an urgent delegation to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to discuss the fate of Mr Kazinda.