Kadaga makes U-turn on OPM theft probe
Posted Saturday, February 16 2013 at 02:00
Back on track. The Speaker says her directive was only restrictive to witnesses in court.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has reinstated the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee investigations into the theft of more than Shs50 billion in foreign aid channeled through the Prime Minister’s office, saying her directive was only retrictive to witnesses in court.
Sources told the Saturday Monitor that Ms Kadaga made the decision on Thursday after a private meeting with selected parliamentary Commissioners.
The Committee Chairman, Mr Kassino Wadri, told journalists at Parliament yesterday, that he also attended this meeting where it was agreed that the committee should resume business.
“The Speaker called me to clarify on the general misunderstanding in public about a letter she had written to me halting the Committee investigations,” Mr Wadri said. “She clarified that her letter was only restrictive to the witnesses who were supposed to appear in Court on February 14 and 15 and that PAC should go ahead with its investigations.”
On February 8, Ms Kadaga wrote to the PAC chairman, explaining that the Rules of Procedure do not permit Parliament to handle issues, if a case is already in court. She said she had received a complaint from the DPP, Mr Richard Butera, that the PAC investigations were “highly prejudicial” to the court process.
The meeting with Ms Kadaga reportedly discussed the pros and cons of stopping the parliamentary inquiry into the theft PRDP funds. The fear was that if PAC did not resume investigations, its report at the end of the court process would be “inconsequential”. Commissioners led by Chris Bayomunsi and Elijah Okupa requested the Speaker to allow PAC to complete its investigations without offending the sub-judice rule.
While Ms Kadaga cited Rule 64 (2), (3) and (5), which bars MPs from discussing matters before courts, the Shadow Attorney General, Mr Abdu Katuntu, on Friday said the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any law that is inconsistent with its provisions is of no force or effect.
A group of MPs from Acholi sub-region on Wednesday protested the Speaker’s decision to halt the investigations and threatened to stage a demonstration in Gulu town.
Mr Wadri said the committee would interface with the three remaining witnesses before going to the field to verify the activities on the ground. The committee is expected to meet the director Farm Engineering Ltd, a company contracted to plough land in Acholi and Karamoja sub-region, Minister for Karamoja Janet Museveni, and premier Amama Mbabazi.
The PAC chairman said the First Lady would be required to explain how her office received Shs3.5b in unexplained imprest and how she reportedly travelled to Israel nine times in one month. Mr Wadri said Ms Museveni, as the political head of Karamoja docket, will be required to explain the action she took on the abuse of public funds.
Last week, the First Lady said in a letter to the committee vice chairperson, Mr Paul Mwiru, that she would appear before PAC, but asked MPs to send their queries in advance.
However, Mr Wadri said the committee would not send the questions to the First Lady, adding that “She has got the copy of the Auditor General’s report; it’s not the practice of this committee to send accountability queries to witnesses.”
The President’s wife was named in the Auditor General’s report as having travelled to Israel nine times in one month. The Shs143.6m was reportedly received by the former cashier in OPM, Mr Boniface Obbo.
Ms Museveni has, however, denied that she travelled to Israel nine times in one month as indicated in the AG’s findings.