Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is today expected to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, which is investigating the suspected theft of millions of dollars in foreign aid meant for post-conflict recovery in northern Uganda and Karamoja.
A senior official at the Office of Prime Minister yesterday confirmed that Mr Mbabazi would appear. A day later, the President’s wife, Ms Janet Museveni, is expected to testify on Wednesday as the committee continues to peel layers off a scam in which at least Shs50 billion is believed to have been abused.
Both politicians were first summoned in February but did not appear for different reasons. “It’s true we are meeting the Prime Minister tomorrow and the First Lady (who is also the minister for Karamoja Affairs) on Wednesday,” the committee chairperson, Mr Kassiano Wadri, confirmed yesterday.
In February, Mr Mbabazi who faces questioning on the alleged diversion of PRDP funds is reported to have travelled to Egypt. The First Lady was reported on leave but indicated that she would appear and requested for the questions in advance.
PAC, however, declined to send the questions, saying she has the Auditor General’s report on which the inquiry was founded, and that her request ran counter to established practice. Information before PAC indicates that almost Shs2 billion in PRDP money was spent on buying luxury cars for ministers in the Premier’s office. Beneficiaries of the new cars included Mr Mbabazi and five others.
Mr Wadri said the Premier will be asked to explain how his office became an implementing agency for the project yet under the 1995 Constitution its mandate is to coordinate government programmes.
As the political head of the docket, Mr Mbabazi could also face questioning about why the scam went undetected for almost two years.
The PAC deputy, Mr Paul Mwiru, told the Daily Monitor that the reported death of a cashier linked to queries in which Ms Museveni’s name came up left loose ends. The committee has taken an interest in finding out how Boniface Obbo (the said cashier) reportedly died. He became a subject of interest after the AG’s report found that the Shs143.6 million advanced to his account was labelled as having been spent on nine trips to Israel under the name of the First Lady. Shortly after the matter went public, Ms Museveni issued a press statement denying the trips.
Mr Wadri said the First Lady would also be required to shed light on why her office received Shs3.5 billion in imprest: “It will be unfair to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Karamoja if we don’t give them the opportunity to defend themselves.” “We have interfaced with the technical people, now we want to hear from the politicians before we embark on report writing,” he said. However, it is not clear whether PAC will be allowed to interview former principal accountant, Mr Geoffrey Kazinda, who is in prison.
Mr Kazinda is considered a key witness although the Solicitor General, Director of Public Prosecutions and prison authorities have suggested that it would be prejudicial to interview him in light of an ongoing parallel process in court, where he is being tried.
But Mr Wadri said Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has assured PAC that at an appropriate time, she would write to the authorities to allow Kazinda tell his story. Separately, police continues other investigations alongside the PAC inquiry.