Coffee probe report gets blessing from Museveni

The parliamentary Trade committee chairperson, Mr Mwine Mpaka Rwamirama (right), chairs investigations into the controversial coffee agreement on April 25.  PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Sunday Monitor understands the President on Friday held a closed-door meeting with six lawmakers on the 28-strong parliamentary committee on trade. The meeting spanned two hours.

President Museveni has cleared the Trade committee of Parliament to table and debate the findings of a probe into an agreement the government entered into with Uganda Vinci Coffee Company (UVCC).

Mr Museveni’s clearance comes after the presentation of the probe report went missing on the House’s order papers for a fortnight. 

Sunday Monitor understands the President on Friday held a closed-door meeting with six lawmakers on the 28-strong parliamentary committee on trade. The meeting spanned two hours.

Mr Gaffa Mbwatekamwa (Kasambya County), who attended the meeting, revealed it was resolved that presentation of the probe report be put on the order paper early next week.

“The President accepted that the report should be tabled and we are not changing anything,” Mr Mbwatekamwa told Sunday Monitor, adding, “I am assuring the members [who weren’t there] and all Ugandans that we are not intending to change any clause in the report.”

Asked to divulge the contents of the report, Mr Mbwatekamwa kept his cards close to the chest.

“The beauty is that journalists have been covering [the proceedings of the probe], so what we discussed will appear,” he said.

The Kasambya County lawmaker also warned that a minority report will be birthed if the actual probe report is not tabled on the floor of Parliament.

The report authored under the stewardship of Trade Committee chair, Mr Mwine Mpaka (Mbarara City South), is the product of a week-long investigation process. It followed a public uproar about an agreement that gave the UVCC a 10-year concession to add value to Uganda’s green coffee beans.

There has been pressure on the top brass of the House to have Mr Mpaka tabled the findings of the report after he indicated his readiness to do so a fortnight ago.

 On Thursday, this past week, Mr Mathias Mpuuga—the Leader of Oppositionin Parliament—tasked Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa to explain why President Museveni summoned Trade Committee legislators to the State House.

There appear to be fears that the report is primed to be altered. After meeting the President on Friday, Mr Mbwatekamwa—an NRM legislator—dismissed the fears.

“Some [legislators], mainly from the Opposition, chickened out because they thought that we were going to be compromised and alter [the recommendations of the report],” he said.

Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Trade have vowed not to attend to any business until the report is tabled. 

Mr Mbwatekamwa confirmed that this position has not changed following the Friday evening meeting with President Museveni.

“We are supposed to begin [other] assignments, [but] I am still hesitant. We pledged that unless we are given a chance to discuss the report, we are not to do other things. I will stick by that,” he said.

Mr Mbwatekamwa said the lawmakers used the meeting with the President to correct the record.

“The President…thought we were against the Vinci investor. We were trying to tell him the details and clauses were a mess [in the agreement],” Mr Mbwatekamwa said.

A report leaked to the media last weekend indicates that members on the Trade Committee recommended that the deal with UVCC be cancelled and fresh negotiations be done. 

It also called for the dismissal of the Finance minister Matia Kasaija, the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Ramathan Ggoobi and the Attorney General Mr Kiryowa Kiwanuka for reportedly misadvising the government before it signed on the dotted line with UVCC.