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Budget racket probe:  Police detain three MPs

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An aide of one of the detained Members of Parliament delivers a mattress at Kira Police Division in Wakiso District on June 10, 2024. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

Police yesterday took into custody three Members of Parliament (MPs) after a day of questioning at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Kibuli, a Kampala suburb.

They are Yusuf Mutembuli, the lawmaker representing Bunyole East in Butaleja District; his counterpart of Busiki constituency in Namutumba, Mr Paul Akamba; and, Ms Cissy Namujju, the district woman representative for Lwengo.
All subscribe to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the party’s caucus spokesman, Mr Brandon Kintu, last evening said they at present have no official position on the arrests. The law, he said, should take its course.

Details of the cases against the detained MPs remained undisclosed and we were unable to establish whether they were being held as suspects or potential witnesses.
Parliament spokesperson Chris Obore in response to our inquiries about the arrests said it was unlikely police would have summoned the lawmakers for interrogation without notifying the Speaker of Parliament.

“It is a procedural matter,” he noted, “As long as they were arrested after notification of the Speaker, then all we can demand is professional handling by the investigatory agencies.”
Mr Obore said the MPs were still “suspects until proven guilty”, adding that whereas he was unaware, “the Speaker usually follows up on MPs [in trouble] either by sending other senior legislators or by herself”.

Yusuf Mutembuli, Bunyole East MP

Ms Mariam Naigaga, the district woman representative for Namutumba, which is where detained MP Akamba hails from, and Bugabula South’s Maurice Henry Kibalya were among MPs who visited Kira Police Division yesterday. They declined to speak to journalists after their visit.
It was unclear if they were there on own volition or as emissaries of Parliament leadership.

Focus of probe
Sources said detectives were generally investigating claims that some unmentioned officials demand money by menace during the processing of the national budget after President Museveni last week revealed that he had proof of such a racket across government.

There is at present no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of the lawmakers taken into custody or that they face similar allegations.
A team of detectives led by Detective/Assistant Commissioner of Police Mark Odongo, the law enforcement agency’s lead investigator of corruption cases, yesterday interrogated them for about five hours.

They were in the evening then driven from CID headquarters in Kibuli across the city centre to Kira Division Police headquarters in Kira Town Council, roughly 14 kilometres away, where they were still in the cells by press time.
Relatives and friends, among them colleague MPs, brought in beddings and personal effects, including buckets, lotions, a suit case and carton of bottled water.

A group of lawmakers met police commanders at Kira Police Division from about 6:40pm and walked out at nearly 9pm, leaving their colleagues behind. The legislators declined to speak to our reporters, with one simply saying “you will not get what you want”.
A lawyer for the detained MPs, who declined to be named, said “they (detained legislators) are going to sleep here [in police cells] and we start from there tomorrow (today)”.
“We shall see whether we are getting [them out on] bond or they are presented to court,” he added.

Cissy Namujju, Lwengo Woman MP

DPP waits for files
Back in the city centre, the spokesperson of the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said they were yet to receive the police files on the trio for perusal and legal advice.
 “The case file is yet to be submitted to our office … for perusal ad consideration of charges. The charges are to be determined when the file is submitted for perusal,” Ms Jacquelyn Okui said.
CID Director Tom Magambo was unavailable by press time.

Police position
Earlier in the day, Police spokesperson Fred Enanga, while addressing the weekly police press briefing, attempted to dismiss our splash of yesterday’s edition in which we reported that the Force had summoned about half-a-dozen MPs and senior Finance ministry technocrats.

The individuals were to assist with investigations into alleged budget corruption, which President Museveni ordered after his Thursday State-of-the-Nation Address during which lawmakers spurned his proposal to forgive suspected perpetrators.

“I had been hearing stories that there is a racket from … [the] Ministry of Finance, they are bringing accounting officers of ministries to come to Parliament working with some people, to provide certain funds, provided they [officials] take a share. I didn’t believe it [at first], but now I have proof,” he said on Thursday. 

The head of state then drew a ‘sword of blood’ and ordered police and prosecutors to go after the suspected thieving officials after accusing Finance and Parliament officials of transactional budgeting; legislators allegedly colluding with accounting officers to make allocations of public resources in exchange for kickbacks.

Sources close to the Mark Odongo-led investigations said the inquiries are prosecution-led, meaning action predicates on prosecutable evidence, and are to be expanded to target bureaucrats and political leaders in various government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). 
In last night’s interview, NRM Caucus spokesman Kintu said the detained MPs should be presumed innocent until proven guilty – as the law requires.
“We have several agencies fighting corruption. As you heard the President say [during SONA], he is against corruption and whoever is corrupt is against the country. Let the law take its course,” he added.  

Mr Kintu said they for now don’t know the truth, but that the ruling party has been quietly investigating allegations of corruption against some of its members. He did not name names or provides particulars of the cases. 

Paul Akamba, Busiki County, Namutumba District (NRM)

About the MPs

Cissy Namujju, Lwengo Woman MP
The legislator retained her seat from the 10th Parliament. In 2017, she was thrust in the spotlight during a court hearing for failing to answer basic primary literacy questions, including among others, “what is a map?” and “characteristics of an insect.” The court hearing was challenging her election following questions surrounding her academic qualifications. She retained her seat after three justices unanimously ruled that she was validly elected for the position. The legislators has always stood ground that she has all the required qualifications needed for contesting for parliamentary seats. Currently, she is a member of the Physical Infrastructure Committee in Parliament.

Yusuf Mutembuli, Bunyole East MP
He has had a shot at politics since 2011. Contesting under the Democratic Party (DP) ticket, Mutembuli lost at the time to Mr Emmanuel Dombo, now serving as the director of communication at the NRM Secretariat. In 2016, while standing on an independent ticket, Mutembuli lost to NRM’s Moses Nagwomu. He finally won the seat in 2021 after standing on the NRM ticket. He is currently the vice chairperson of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.

Paul Akamba, Busiki County, Namutumba District (NRM)

Akamba retained his seat from 10th Parliament. Currently, he serves as a Member of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.