Among tells Karamoja minister to carry own cross

Minister Mary Goretti Kitutu and Speaker Anita Among. PHOTOS/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Let us not go diversionary. The Minister for Karamoja Affairs (Mary Goretti Kitutu) is there. If there was any diversion, it is not anybody else’s fault... I do not want other ministers pulled into what they are not concerned about. Let everybody carry his own cross,”  Anita Among, Speaker of Parliament.

Parliament Speaker Anita Among has said adverse claims against herself and senior ministers over allegations of receiving iron sheets meant for vulnerable Karimojong, are unfounded and the line minister must take full responsibility.
“Let us not go diversionary. The minister for Karamoja Affairs (Mary Goretti Kitutu) is there. If there was any diversion, it is not anybody else’s fault,” she said in her communication to the first sitting of lawmakers since the scandal bubbled to the surface two weeks ago.
Parliament has been on recess during the corresponding period, although one of its committees began inquiries into the allegations of mismanagement of the relief materials on Monday.

In her maiden public comments on the matter, Speaker Among, who, through Parliament spokesperson Chris Obore, earlier acknowledged receiving hundreds of the iron sheets, yesterday said “I do not want other ministers pulled into what they are not concerned about. Let everybody carry his own cross”.
Minister Kitutu was thrust into the eye of the storm when State House investigators arrested her relatives in the village for allegedly selling the marked iron sheets. 
She was not present in the House yesterday to respond to the accusations.
Ms Kitutu has publicly said nothing about the allegations and neither has her junior Agnes Nandutu, also adversely named for receiving Karamoja-bound iron sheets.
Other notable beneficiaries, according to an internal memo in the Office of the Prime Minister, include First Deputy Prime Minister/East African Community Affairs minister Rebecca Kadaga, Third Deputy premier Rukia Nakadaama, Finance ministers Matia Kasaija and his junior Amos Lugoloobi.

The others are State Defence minister Jacob Oboth-Oboth, State Primary Education minister Moriku Kaducu, Government Chief Whip Hamson Obua and junior Agriculture minister Bwiino Kyakulaga.
Speaker Among yesterday confirmed receipt of iron sheets in her constituency, but said she never asked for them.
“I saw iron sheets in Bukedea, I did not ask for them. I ordered that they should be given to schools, innocently. I did not open a shop to sell them, but they were given to schools,” she added.
Despite other ministers featuring in the scandal, Ms Among, like the legislators from Karamoja Sub-region, said Ms Kitutu should offer answers.
The minister is facing accusations of overseeing the diversion of more than 5,000 iron sheets meant for Karamoja and alleged under-supply at inflated costs of goats that cost the taxpayer Shs25b.

Ms Kitutu was unavailable for comment when we tried to reach her by telephone yesterday.
Parliament on Monday, commenced a probe into the diversion of the iron sheets following a petition by the Karamoja Parliamentary Group to the Office of the Speaker.
The lawmakers also put a formal notice to the Clerk to Parliament to start a censure process against minister Kitutu, but announced a halt pending the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry, whose findings they believe will provide incriminating evidence to buttress their case against the Manafwa District Woman MP.
Karamoja Parliamentary Group chairperson Remigio Achia told the probe committee chaired by Ms Jesca Ababiku, the Adjumani District Woman MP, that thousands of iron sheets meant for Karamoja are missing, about 290 metric tonnes of maize worth Shs19b had been diverted in a scheme involving line ministers and security personnel and beneficiaries got fewer goats than budgeted.

“Let’s wait for the report to come back from the committee and this House will take decisions. Let us restrain from utterances that are not going to help. Let people take responsibility for their actions,” Speaker Among said.
In a rejoinder, Budadiri East MP Isaias Ssasaga said: “In the Old Testament, when a father sinned, the children would suffer. With [the] coming of (Jesus) Christ, [everyone] carries their own cross and burden. If a minister sins, if you delegate them, should anything happen, you are still in charge.”
Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju argued that the House, which resumed sitting just yesterday after a two-week break, be adjourned for another fortnight to allow the probe committee complete its work since senior high-ranking officials, who are key in both government and parliamentary business, are implicated.

“When government [officials are] involved in crime [on an] industrial scale, their ability to deliver is curtailed. It is the reason the ministers mentioned in the [iron sheet saga] are hiding,” he claimed, “If you have a whole Cabinet involved in that crime of disappearing (sic) iron sheets for Karamoja, that government cannot come here and speak.”
He added: “Will the Prime Minister (and Leader of Government Business Robina Nabbanja) stand there or the deputies, and address Parliament?  With the ministers named [in receiving] over 3,000 iron sheets, if I have questions to ask, who do I ask because she has gone into hiding?”
The claim that implicated ministers had gone into hiding could not be independently verified.
Ms Nabbanja entered the chambers moments after Mr Ssemujju’s vitriol and declined to respond to the issues raised, and instead accused him of riding on her name for political expediency.
Nonetheless, Speaker Among, who steered the House, rejected the Kira Municipality lawmaker’s adjournment request.