Museveni meets Acholi MPs over OPM scandal
Posted Monday, February 25 2013 at 02:00
President Museveni has challenged MPs from Acholi sub-region to produce evidence implicating the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Pius Bigirimana, in the theft of foreign aid meant for northern Uganda.
In the Thursday meeting at the Cabinet Library at Parliament, the MPs accused the President and other senior government officials of shielding Mr Bigirimana from investigation.
Parliament last year passed a resolution to send Mr Bigirimana, the accounting officer in the ministry, on forced leave until the conclusion of the investigation.
The President, who appoints the official, ignored the resolution and says Mr Bigirimana was the whistle-blower. He remains in office despite allegations he was aware of and sanctioned many of the dodgy transactions under investigation.
Sources that attended the meeting told the Daily Monitor that Mr Museveni promised to interdict Mr Bigirimana if there was evidence implicating him. Water Minister Betty Bigombe, who was part of the delegation, told the President that the OPM scandal was only reported because it was “a deal gone bad” in which almost everybody in the office was involved. She added that Mr Bigirimana was not the whistle-blower.
Aruu MP Odonga Otto told the President that a luxury Mercedes Benz assigned to Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi was bought using funds diverted from PRDP.
During the meeting, the President reportedly blamed the office of the Auditor General for failing to detect the scam until Mr Bigirimana blew the whistle, a claim the MPs described as “unfair” and “diversionary”. The President reportedly promised to deal with the Ministry of Finance where officials connived with their OPM and Central Bank counterparts to facilitate the connivance.
Forensic audits needed
Mr Reagan Okumu, the Acholi Parliamentary Group chairperson, told the President that the extent of the fraud was uncovered by a forensic audit and that the annual regular audits by Auditor General John Muwanga could not have detected the fraud.
The President’s meeting came a day after some MPs from northern Uganda launched a campaign to collect signatures to back their renewed call for the region to break away and form an independent country called Nile State.
The meeting also came on the day the American ambassador to Uganda, Mr Scott DeLisi, said grand corruption was directly linked to the way the country is being governed. European donors, who cut aid over the OPM scandal last year, have started reinstating it but the police investigation into the matter has been hamstrung by interference by senior government officials said to be interceding on behalf of some of the suspects.
A follow-up meeting is expected in two weeks to discuss compensation for property lost during the LRA war, post-conflict reconstruction and underdevelopment of northern Uganda.