Iron sheets saga probe to be complete in 3 weeks - team

The Presidential Affairs Committee chairperson and also Woman Member of Parliament Adjumani District, Ms Jesca Ababiku, (right) chairs the committee at Parliament on March 1. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA 

What you need to know:

  • Parliament’s committee on Presidential Affairs has had an eventful week interfacing with respective witnesses over allegations on mismanagement of relief items meant for Karamoja in North-Eastern Uganda.
  • Ms Jesca Ababiku (Adjumani, National Resistance Movement), the chairperson of the committee, spoke to Daily Monitor’s Esther Oluka last Friday to take stock of the probe.

Take us through the [events that transpired during the] probe last week

From [last] Monday to Friday, we invited several stakeholders and our engagements have been successful. We categorised the stakeholders [in terms] of those who came from district local governments, then, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Finance [Ministry]. So we have reached 60 percent of our investigations. We can now produce a proper checklist to at least go to the field. We are [now] preparing to go to the field to crosscheck on information that was availed to us.
What are your terms of reference for this probe?

These are based on what the petitioners took to the Speaker and later referred to us. Among them is to verify the allegations on the mismanagement of iron sheets, verify the allegation that the Shs39 billion of the supplementary budget was abused, misuse of food meant for feeding schools in the Karamoja, where the claim states that the food items were diverted specifically maize to support other institutions. 
Then, on the issue of goats, we are doing verification on the ideal number of goats expected to be delivered to Karamoja vis-a-visa the actual and cost of the implications.
You were accorded two weeks to probe the matter on the mismanagement of relief items in Karamoja region. With one week out of the way, will your team be able to beat the deadline?

No, the two weeks won’t be enough because we need to go to the field to verify specifically on the issues of goats received because we have a lot of allegations on the number of goats received. So, we need to go on the ground. Then on the issue of iron sheets, there is a claim that nothing reached the districts except 1,000 iron sheets which were used for the launch of the programme.

However, we have got contradictory information that Nakapiripirit got some iron sheets and so we have got to go there and verify whether it is true that the beneficiaries received them. So, we are going to put time aside and do thorough verification of the information that has been given to us so that we have a quality report.
When do you think the team will complete the work then?

We envisage that within three weeks’ time because after the field work, we have to start processing our report and that also takes time. But, that is our target. We are in touch with the Speaker’s office over this issue of time.
Do you plan on inviting more witnesses in the coming days?

We are still going to invite some [in order] to make more clarifications on the information given to us but there are others, for example, hailing from Karamoja, we want to meet them during the visits [in the field] instead of them coming here.
On the issue of iron sheets, do you feel the committee has attained incredible evidence to pin the alleged wrongdoers involved?

We still have more to be done because we have to go to the stores to verify what is available. We have to verify how many iron sheets were donated, so we still have time in our programme to investigate the issue of iron sheets. Regardless, we have so far captured 60 percent of the information we want.
The beneficiaries who were implicated in the iron sheets but have not appeared yet, will they be called to answer to allegations imposed on them?

It will depend because if it is a donation, we need to first listen from the donor before inviting any of the recipients of the iron sheets. The ones you have seen appearing [Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and State Minister for Karamoja Agnes Nandutu] before our committee were the ones who requested.

We have never invited any beneficiary from the list of donors of the minister of Karamoja region. We have never invited them because we need to first conclude on the matter on how these iron sheets were given out but so far, the information we have is that people were called and given the iron sheets. So, we have to first rule on it before inviting the recipients.
The Inspectorate of Government (IGG) vowed last month to investigate the mismanagement of relief items in the Karamoja region. Are you comparing notes?

For us, we are working as an institution of Parliament after being directed by the Speaker’s office. We don’t know what others are doing now.
What other challenges have you faced so far during the probe?

The time constraint, something I earlier mentioned, as well as people making an appearance without clear evidence. Because of this, we keep sending some stakeholders back to bring more information, a process that pushes us back and delays us as a committee.

Any pressure from anyone implicated in the saga?

We are not feeling any pressure. All the stakeholders are cooperating. In case we start getting any, we shall inform the House.

Parting words..
We shall diligently do this work on behalf of Parliament and produce a quality report.