What you need to know:
- In the bank. The MPs yesterday received the money in their personal bank accounts as part of a car scheme, which is being challenged in the Constitutional Court.
- The ruling of a petition challenging members’ vehicle grant failed to take off at the Constitutional Court yesterday after presiding judge Richard Buteera informed court that the transcribing machine could not reproduce the last court’s record of proceedings to enable him write his judgment.
KAMPALA. The Parliamentary Commission yesterday wired Shs43.2billion to lawmakers’ accounts to procure vehicles.
The money was wired unannounced for fear of provoking outrage on the day a private citizen, Mr Twaha Sanywa, was expecting a ruling of the Constitutional Court on his petition challenging government’s decision to use taxpayers’ money to procure cars for the legislators.
The MPs received Shs100 million each in their personal bank accounts as part of a taxpayer-funded car scheme, which is being challenged in the Constitutional Court.
Although the Shs64.8 billion for the MPs’ vehicles was not indicated in the 2016/17 Budget, sources at Parliament told Daily Monitor how the Parliamentary Commission chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga took a decision to suppress undisclosed items within the Parliamentary Commission budget to raise part of the money for vehicles. The money for the MPs’ vehicles was not budgeted for on grounds that the Parliamentary Commission had “overshot” its budget ceiling.
The Clerk to Parliament, being the accounting officer, was then tasked to write to the Finance ministry, communicating the internal re-allocations. The Secretary to the Treasury approved the cuts to the Parliament budget to a tune of Shs43.2 billion. It was, however, agreed that the gap created by the “emergency re-allocations” within the Parliament budget be covered through a supplementary budget. The Finance ministry agreed to issue a supplementary.
Most of the MPs who talked to Daily Monitor yesterday were reluctant to talk about the news and instead chose to feign ignorance even as sources in Finance ministry and the authorities in Parliament confirmed that the money had been posted to their personal bank accounts.
When contacted, Mr Chris Obore, the Parliament director of communication and public affairs, said: “I am not surprised because Finance had promised to release the money by October.”
He added: “It is true some MPs have got the money for vehicles, others may not [yet] find the money on their account. There is a problem of uploading the money. If some MPs don’t find the money on the account [yet], then, that will be a system problem but the process of paying is on”.
When contacted yesterday, Mr Peter Ogwang, one of the Parliamentary Commissioners, confirmed the release of the money to members but declined to offer any details. Another commissioner, who requested not to be quoted on the matter, also confirmed the news and talked of the unbearable pressure from the MPs. This commissioner claimed that some “honourable members”, especially the fresh entrants, were using boda-boda, taxis and rented vehicles.
According to Finance ministry spokesperson Jim Mugunga, the ministry publicly announced second releases recently, adding that “as far as I know, there was no releases related to members vehicles. Likewise, I am not aware of any supplementary resources towards MPs’ vehicles. If indeed, they have been advanced monies, then the paymaster, who is the Parliamentary Commission, is best placed to tell the origin of the funds.”
Last month, Ms Kadaga assured members that by October, each of the 432 MPs would pocket Shs150m to buy cars to travel to their constituencies. However, after the analysis of the Parliamentary Commission budget, the technical personnel established that each legislator can only receive Shs100m as down payment. The balance of Shs50m each will be paid to members when the ministry of Finance has finalised Supplementary Schedule No.1 of the 2016/17 Financial Year. In the 9th Parliament, each legislator received Shs103m for vehicles.
Although some MPs had proposed to raise members’ vehicle cash to Shs200m each, sources within Parliament told Daily Monitor that this move was abandoned after Finance minister Matia Kasaija and President Museveni rejected the proposal. Some legislators also feared such a move would depict legislators as “greedy and selfish”.
Last month, Mr Obore told Daily Monitor that Parliament reached out to President Museveni, who in turn directed the Finance ministry to mobilise money to bankroll the venture.
Meanwhile, the ruling of a petition challenging members’ vehicle grant failed to take off at the Constitutional Court yesterday after presiding judge Richard Buteera informed court that the transcribing machine could not reproduce the last court’s record of proceedings to enable him write his judgment.
“I was unable to write my judgment because our transcriber could not do anything to the previous court proceedings since the recording machine could not show them,” Justice Buteera said.
The hearing of the case was conducted on October 4 and the judge had promised to deliver his ruling on Tuesday (yesterday). However, it later turned out that the day the machine failed to read the court records, it was the same day the MPs smiled their way to the bank to pick up Shs100m each for the vehicles. Justice Buteera, however, ordered the parties to re-do their submissions in court before he set October 27 to give his verdict.
Yesterday, State Attorney Goretti Arinaitwe reiterated that it is lawful for Parliament to spend more than Shs64 billion on MPs personal vehicles as the law allows legislators to enjoy such privileges. However, Mr Sanywa, the petitioner, wants court to stop the MPs car scheme, saying it places legislators at a preferential treatment against other government employees both in the Judiciary and Executive arms, who perform their duties in public vehicles. It’s not yet clear how the court will react to the news.