PARLIAMENT. In an unprecedented scenario, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has banished one of its members for alleged attempted extortion.
Mr Alioni Odria (Yumbe MP, Independent), is accused of using his position as a PAC member to solicit a bribe from an accounting officer in return for protection when he would appear before the committee to answer accountability queries.
It is the practice of the PAC to send notices to respective accounting officers who are scheduled to appear before it for accountability questioning. The members are, therefore, always privy to how tough the committee plans to be on a particular accounting officer.
The accounting officer, who could not be readily established, reported to the committee chairperson, Ms Angelina Osege, that Mr Odria had solicited a bribe from him on promise to “protect” him when he appeared for questioning.
A source in PAC told Daily Monitor that Ms Osege acted swiftly but in order to save Mr Odria the embarrassment, he asked him “to go” to his Chief Whip and ask to be reassigned a different committee” because PAC members wouldn’t have him anymore in order to avoid a clear conflict of interest when the accounting officer appeared before them.
When contacted, Ms Osege expressed surprise at how Daily Monitor got the information, but nevertheless confirmed that the committee received the complaint against Mr Odria and asked him to be reassigned to another committee.
A senior member on the committee, who preferred anonymity for fear of antagonism, said: “We agreed that he leaves the committee. I was personally very peeved with the way he acted. That decision is very important because it sends a message. When the chair mentioned it to us in the committee, we agreed that he goes. We didn’t even spend a second discussing it.”
On his Parliament profile, Mr Odria registered himself as a Pentecost.
When called for a comment, his call back tune was President Museveni’s lamentation about how hard it is to fight corruption.
“You can’t get rid of corruption through witchcraft. I am not God. I can’t say that let there be no corruption and there’s no corruption,” the caller tune rings in Mr Museveni’s voice and the call went unanswered.
However, in a late night WhatsApp chat with our reporter on Sunday, Mr Odria denied the accusation.
“That’s a false story. You have shocked me with that though our committee is one where, as a member, you need to be open and bold enough to respond to the accountability queries from the Auditor General’s report. Most of the witnesses we face have failed to provide any proper accountabilities as you are aware,” he stated.
The reporter interjected, “but the Independents Whip and the committee chairperson plus two members of the committee have actually pinned you. So I don’t get it when you say it is a false accusation.”
Mr Odria replied: “Not aware. All I know is the Independents whip called two of us two months ago asking us to select other committees apart from PAC. The reason was that the number of Independent MPs is more than the limit to the committee and later, my colleague selected a committee of her choice and left, so I remained till now without any other call to make another choice.”
He further said, “I don’t know when you got that story. However, I am surprised and to me, it is totally a wrong story and if there is any evidence to the allegations, I will advise you to write but I am 100 per cent sure it is a false allegation and 100 per cent sure it has no single evidence.”
The Independents Whip, Mr Andrew Aja Baryayanga (Kabale) confirmed, as “very true” that he got the complaint and request to move Mr Odria to another committee. He described the MP’s behaviour as “very unfortunate”
“I had the courtesy to call on him to see what he says but he instead told me that ‘they told me to ask you to pardon me’,” Mr Baryayanga said.
He further said when he interfaced with the committee leadership, they repeated their concerns to him.
“They told me that they don’t want that guy because he was trying to extort money from some witness,” he said but added that the committee had not formally communicated to him the request to reassign Mr Odria.
“I want the chair of PAC to put it in writing and I go to the Speaker for guidance. I am therefore waiting for that letter. But if I don’t get it, I will take action,” he said.
The gravity of the accusation against Mr Odria could cost him his seat. According to Article 84 (b) of the Constitution, the electorate can recall their MP on account of misconduct or misbehaviour likely to bring hatred, ridicule, contempt or disrepute to the office.
Daily Monitor is still investigating which sector and accounting officer said to have been targeted by the MP.