The Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, Ms Irene Muloni, had a tough afternoon yesterday as Members of Parliament grilled her in what they called contempt of Parliament over media reports attributed to her on the alleged theft of Shs24b meant for the construction of Isimba Dam Bridge.
During a plenary sitting last week, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said she had evidence against senior government officials who stole the money meant for the bridge over River Nile connecting Kayunga and Kamuli districts.
However, while speaking at the Uganda Media Centre on Tuesday, Ms Muloni dismissed the Speaker’s claims, saying: “If you have a case, the government here has all institutions that can handle all those issues”.
Angered by the minister’s statement, the Speaker, during her communication at the start of yesterday’s sitting, presented to Parliament what she called evidence on the subject matter, sparking a heated debate in the House.
“I have heard what the government has said and I want to give them the following information because I think they don’t have it or they are ignoring it,” Ms Kadaga said, adding that she had reported the matter to the President in March.
She said government needs to explain who was behind plans to kick the contractors, China Water and Electric, out of the country even before the commissioning of the Isimba Dam, a project that was supposed to go hand-in-hand with the construction of the bridge.
The Speaker also revealed that under High Court suit number 383 of 2019, a number of people led by Vincent Nsubuga and Bernard Ssajabi sued the contractor and the Attorney General in a case that led to court order, restricting transactions from three bank accounts of China Water and Electric.
“I want the government to establish who was behind the fictitious cases filed against China Water and Electric, and the Attorney General. The purpose of that suit was actually to close the work of China Water and Electric,” she said.
MPs from across the political divide charged at the minister saying she needs to be investigated because she might have a hand in the mess around the construction of the bridge which has delayed despite the funds being disbursed by the Ministry of Finance.
They also accused Ms Muloni of breaching Rule 221 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure by going to portray the person of the Speaker as a liar from the Uganda Media Centre before briefing Parliament where the matter was initially reported.
Some of them argued that Ms Muloni retracts the statement and apologises to the Speaker and the House while others called for a special committee to investigate her conduct together with the issues surrounding the bridge.
“For the minister to try to pour scorn and to hold the office of the Speaker under contempt, means there is a serious problem,” Mr Theodore Ssekikubo, the Lwemiyaga County MP, said.
Ayivu County MP Bernard Atiku also charged at the minister saying there is a problem with the Executive disrespecting Parliament.
“Madam Speaker, I request that you distribute the evidence so that we examine this information and evoke a censure motion if a committee of the whole House finds that the minister indeed made that statement,” he said.
Minister Muloni responds
Ms Irene Muloni, the minister of Energy and Mineral Development, who insisted that she only addressed the media as a result of instruction from Cabinet to clarify about the issues surrounding the construction of the Isimba Bridge, retracted the statement before apologising.
“If that statement angered you (Speaker), I did not intend to silence you and the Parliament of Uganda, I apologise,” Ms Muloni said.
She was, however, not allowed to make further explanation about the project which said is so far 20 per cent is done. The Speaker ruled that she goes back and prepares a comprehensive statement about the project and report to the House on Tuesday next week when further debate will ensue before a decision is taken.