Recently, media reports indicated that Bugweri County Member of Parliament Abdu Katuntu will not contest again when his term expires in 2021. “I’m tired of being voted for and I’m no longer interested. Somebody else should take the mantle from me to lead the people of Bugweri,” he is quoted to have said. The announcement was made during a burial at Kachonga village in Kachonga Sub County, Butaleja District.
A word of caution against early campaigning prior to the general election swiftly came from Government Chief Whip, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, who also attended the burial “I am seeing MPs politicking and campaigning nonstop on community functions including burials, weddings and introduction ceremonies without shame”.
Although the Chief Whip did not name the early campaigners, the comments prompted some mourners to start wondering about where the source of funds may be coming from for those being accused of early campaigns.
Since Hon Katuntu has been leading Parliamentary Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), apparently ring fenced with unexplainable accumulation of wealth, it would have made sense if Katuntu was campaigning, looking for early votes but instead by stark contrast he seems to be bowing out.
The revelation from Katuntu was, therefore, surprising and confusing for two reasons. First, there is an impression that most MPs struggle to survive without parliamentary salaries, and different allowances that help to service huge bank loans.
Secondly, Hon Katuntu, as Cosase chairperson has managed to steadily gain the public’s confidence and trust which many MPs seem to have lost in abundance. Towards the end of 2018, Cosase was able to unearth important, critical information concerning Bank of Uganda (BoU) and its disappointing role as the financial sector regulator.
The degree of information and allegations of shocking unexplained wealth accumulated by not only BoU officials but also other hidden actors, possibly unidentified politicians, has caused staggering financial losses to taxpayers.
Through Cosase, it became apparent BoU failed to recover a total of Shs59b from different accounts held by the International Credit Bank (ICB) and Global Trust Bank (GTB) when they were closed in 1998 and 2014, respectively, missing land titles; disputed payments to external lawyers; and customer loans that were inherited from closed banks and were sold at an undervalued rate without justification.
Furthermore, BoU also failed to recover Shs44b from the ICB’s foreign accounts. In other words, BoU seems to be unable to explain why billions of shillings supposedly in accounts of closed banks is yet to be recovered years after their closure.
For the first time in a long time, Cosase scrutinising documents and asking BoU officials the right questions has given the public the opportunity to follow proceedings and understand the gravity and complexities of the different roles that several actors have played or failed to play while performing their duties.
That left BoU in a vulnerable position and reputations hanging in the balance. The unexpected statement from Katuntu, a practicing lawyer, member of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) shocked many.
Several people are still wondering and speculating as to what the real reasons could be that promoted his decision having served diligently as MP for almost 20 years by 2021 since being first elected in 2001.
There is an impression and rife speculations that the key actors, yet to be revealed big people with interests in the ongoing Cosase sage, willing to pay large sums of money to protect their identities from the public are now becoming a source of funds for early campaigning for some people, thereby prompting Katuntu’s exit from Parliament come 2021.