What you need to know:
- Mr Kagabo claims he was facing pressure from his constituents to return the money to come clean about the alleged bribe, which he distanced from the Speaker.
The atmosphere was right for a confession. It was a calm Wednesday morning at Parliament’s Committee on Rules, Discipline and Privileges when Mr Twaha Kagabo, Bukoto County South legislator, walked into the committee room ready to face the fire that was awaiting him.
He made his entrance at about 10.35am. Mr Kagabo, who was clad in a navy blue suit, entered unaccompanied and sat on a seat next to the door’s entrance.
“These journalists (who had attended the hearing in the committee room) are more than us (MPS),” Mr Kagabo joked to one of his colleagues.
As time went by, he kept fidgeting with his phone and on his seat.
This was perhaps understandable as the legislator, who is a National Unity Platform (NUP) member, was not only facing a dozen of waiting journalists, but also several MPs. This was judgment day.
The committee chairperson, Mr Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri County), in a bid to ease Mr Kagabo’s tension, advised him to relax and get a cup of tea from one of the flasks placed on the table.
He then assured the legislator that the Disciplinary Committee was not witch-hunting him, but it was their job to probe matters that are referred to them before making a conclusive decision.
How did Kagabo get here?
The MP, who holds a Master of Medicine (Surgery) from Makerere University, was cast into the eye of the storm in June after making claims that he and other colleagues were each given Shs40m by the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, for unspecified reasons.
There were claims that the money was a reward for a deal that involved approval of Shs618b supplementary request, including Shs77b for State House.
Ms Among later distanced herself from the controversial money and ordered the committee to probe the matter and later return to the House with a report.
However, during the afternoon plenary on Tuesday, MPs were shocked when Mr Kagabo stood up and requested for pardon over the matter from Ms Among, who was chairing the session.
His brief ambiguous apology before the House did not, however, stop the committee from continuing its investigation as seen on Wednesday when Mr Kagabo honoured the summons and appeared before its members.
“So, what exactly happened?,” Mr Katuntu asked Mr Kagabo after imploring him to give a background to the different accounts and allegations making rounds in the media and Parliament corridors over the reported controversial money.
“There was pressure from my constituents and voters... on how I went there (to pick money) and so they directed that if I wanted to be in their good books, I take back the money,” Mr Kagabo said.
He added: “Because of the pressure, I decided to arrange [the money] in an attempt to wash my hands. I had no intent of inputting other people’s names or hierarchy but because the community had heard so, it was relevant that I mention that (he had allegedly received the money). It was regrettable.”
The legislator also insinuated that his actions were not done alone.
“At the party (his) headquarters, they had directed that if someone, any of the members, had indeed got the money, they should take it back through either the (Chief) Whip or LoP (Leader of Opposition in Parliament). Unfortunately, there were procedural flaws and I did not convene a press conference (intended to parade the money before the media),” he said.
In trying to make sense of his statement, Mr Katuntu specifically asked, “Were you given the money (by the Speaker)?”
“No,” Kagabo responded.
“So, you had to arrange to satisfy the circumstances you have been trying to explain,” Mr Katuntu again asked.
“Exactly,” Mr Kagabo replied.
The legislator added that he had to come clean as the incident had tormented him to the extent that he had contemplated committing suicide, adding that the community was also castigating him.
“This (incident) is not random. God knows why it happened and perhaps (lessons) were in order to make me a better person in the country,” he said.
After Mr Kagabo’s submission, majority of the MPs commended him for being remorseful.
“The Bible even says that whoever has been freed by God, they should not be held captive,” Mr Charles Onen (Gulu East), who is also a Reverend Father, said.
Mr Atkins Godfrey Katusabe (Bukonzo County West) resolved the importance of upholding the integrity of the institution because an attack on an MP is an attack on all of them.
Mr Katuntu said it was important to have an unequivocal (clear) apology which they had to present to the House during their report.
“Do you have an unequivocal apology on this incident because once you do that, then, the process ends here and then we make our report but if not, then, we take it further and call other people (witnesses) relevant for the matter,” Mr Katuntu stated.
Mr Kagabo agreed to the apology.
Following this development, Mr Katuntu resolved they will proceed to make a report and will request for space on the Order Paper so that it is presented before the House next Tuesday.
Asked about the options available, Mr Katuntu said: “Parliament has limited powers of declining its own. We may wish to be severe but we have to act within our powers. Disciplinary measures against an MP should be such that it doesn’t affect much of his or her representative duties. The constituency has a constitutional right of representation.”
Kagabo’s statements about the money
What Mr Kagabo said last month: “It is true legislators received the bribe of Shs40 million each, and this has been haunting me until I made up my mind to return the evil money.”
What he said on Wednesday: “There was pressure from my constituents and voters saying: ‘come on, how come you went there also (to pick the money) like we have been hearing, so, as your bosses, we direct that if you want to be in good books with us, take back the money.’ Because of the pressure, I decided to arrange [the money] in an attempt to wash my hands. At the party headquarters (NUP), they had directed that if someone, any of the members, had indeed got the money, they should take it back through either the (Chief) Whip or LoP (Leader of Opposition in Parliament). Unfortunately, there were procedural flaws and I did not convene a press conference. I had no intention of inputting into other people’s names or hierarchy but because the community had heard so, it was relevant that I mention that (claiming to have received the money). It was regrettable, something I still do up to now.”