Kamya on the spot as Mao floats plans

Inspector General of Government Beti Kamya appears before Parliament’s Legal Committee on Thursday, and Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Nobert Mao appears before Parliament’s Human Rights Committee on August 3.  PHOTOS / DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • In the tweets posted to her official Twitter handle on Wednesday, Ms Kamya, who was Lands minister when the impugned Shs10.6b supplementary budget was passed, said there is no account that she initiated the subvention.

Ombudsman Beti Kamya on Wednesday fired off a series of tweets in which she pleaded her case after Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (Cosase) held her culpable for Shs10.6b that was lost to ghost claimants.

In the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) report presented last week on Thursday, Cosase also recommended that Finance minister Matia Kasaija and Mr Patrick Ocailap, the deputy Secretary to the Treasury, be punished.

The development has put not just Ms Kamya but Uganda in an awkward position since the integrity of an ombudsman is supposed to be beyond reproach.

In the tweets posted to her official Twitter handle on Wednesday, Ms Kamya, who was Lands minister when the impugned Shs10.6b supplementary budget was passed, said there is no account that she initiated the subvention.

She added: “If the Ministry of Finance decides to provide the funds, that decision is taken [through] 15 steps (read checkpoints), including Cabinet, Parliament, the Auditor General, and the Internal Auditor General before the funds are finally released to the appropriate accounting officer for payment to the claimant[s].”

The ombudsman also accuses Cosase chairperson Joel Ssenyonyi (Nakawa West) of needing “my head for his obviously sinister motives.” She further offered that if Mr Ssenyonyi “had his way, my head would’ve been the only one on the guillotine.”

Observers say the accusations and counter-accusations only serve to illuminate the outstanding deficits in Uganda’s vetting process of public officials. Parliament’s Appointments Committee approved Ms Kamya’s appointment as the sixth ombudsman on August 20, 2021. Nearly a year later, another parliamentary committee has possibly unraveled details that could have eluded the Appointments Committee.

Currently, Articles 113 and 114 of the Constitution empower the Person of the President to appoint ministers. The President is also mandated by Article 114 to choose from a list of judicial officers as forwarded to him by the Judicial Service Commission to appoint judges. These are later forwarded to and vetted by the Parliament’s Appointments Committee steered by the Speaker of Parliament. The proceedings of this committee are, however, held in a closed-door session.

President Museveni appointed Ms Kamya as the new Inspector of Government on July 15, 2021. A little over a month later, the House cleared Ms Kamya to replace Justice Irene Mulyagonja as the ombudsman. Mr Asuman Basalirwa, a member of the Parliament’s Appointments Committee, revealed that considerations during the vetting process “are but not limited to one’s character, integrity and one’s academic qualifications.” He strongly believes more can be done, including making the vetting more transparent.

Mao plan

Already, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Norbert Mao has made clear his plans to enact provisions in the Constitution to tighten the process of vetting of presidential appointees to ensure more transparency.

“The process of appointing them is what we have to look at but not to blanketly accuse anybody who is accusing a presidential appointment of being a robot,” Mr Mao said during his first day as an ex-officio in the House, adding that attention ought to be accorded to the appointee’s character.

Mr Mao revealed that he wants such persons to be given space—devoid of biases—so that they embark on tasks upon which they can be judged.

“It is not enough to only examine qualifications. We must also look at character. I think anybody can be independent minded,” Mr Mao suggested, adding, “What matters is to create an environment where the expression of ideas that are independently arrived at are accepted.”

He believes this would not only pave the way for a “polished” crop of leaders as appointed by the President, but also encourage those with divergent opinions to serve in the NRM government.

The proposal has received the backing of Ms Lucy Akello, the Cosase vice chairperson, who says it will stop errant public officials from acting with impunity.