MPs Mawanda, Wamakuyu held for harvesting where they did not sow

Combo: MP Mudimi Wamakuyu and MP Michael Mawanda 

What you need to know:

  • The MPs and lawyers are a subject of police investigation for allegedly eating forbidden fruits off the sweat of farmers whose fields were plundered during wars that plagued the country over the past decades.
  • MP Mawanda is the head of the Disciplinary Committee of the People’s League of Uganda (PLU), a pressure group that identifies as bidding for First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to be a future President of Uganda. Gen Muhoozi, the chief of defence forces, is the patron of PLU. 

Police last evening detained two Members of Parliament (MPs) and three lawyers to assist with investigation into alleged embezzlement of part of Shs164 billion disbursed by the government to compensate cooperative societies.

A handcuffed MP Michael Mawanda (NRM, Igara East) arrived at Nateete Police Station in Kampala in a police van at about 6:50pm after hours of questioning at the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) headquarters in Kibuli, a Kampala outskirt.

Another police vehicle delivered his Elgon County counterpart Ignatius Mudimi Wamakuyu to Kira Division Police at about 9:40pm.

We were unable by press time to establish the identities of the lawyers or where they were detained. It was unclear what charges would be preferred against the five and whether they would be charged jointly, or separately, if their case progressed to court.

Police’s Criminal Investigations Directorate declined to discuss the matter.

Upon arrival at Nateete Police Station, MP Mawanda disembarked and moved quickly into the station building and onwards into the cells. Journalists were barred at the gate.

MP Mawanda is the head of the Disciplinary Committee of the People’s League of Uganda (PLU), a pressure group that identifies as bidding for First Son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to be a future President of Uganda. Gen Muhoozi, the chief of defence forces, is the patron of PLU.

Police summoned the legislators and lawyers who were involved in representing or processing payment claims to explain specific roles they played in the transactions that a 2023 parliamentary inquiry concluded were fraught with irregularities.

House Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry, which until Tuesday was chaired by MP Mwine Mpaka, reported that legislators, lawyers, civil servants, commercial banks, and cooperative officials colluded to misappropriate billions of shillings earmarked for the compensation of cooperatives.

It called the syndicated transactions “criminality” in a report whose findings this newspaper published on December 3, 2023.

According to police documents, the detectives are investigating corruption, theft and conspiracy to defraud Buyaka Growers Cooperative Society and Bumwambu Growers Cooperative Society in respect to the government payout to them in the 2011/12 and 2022/23 financial years as compensation for losses the farmers’ groups suffered in wars that plagued the country from the 1970s.

The investigations that Parliament Speaker Anita Among ordered commenced on August 25, 2023 and found ghost claimants and unexplained double payments to the cooperatives.

In their report, the MPs recommended that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Inspector General of Government invoke their special powers of investigation under Section 33 of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009, to pursue possible criminal charges against perpetrators.

Police officers stand guard as a van brings some of the accused to Natete Police Station in Kampala on June 19, 2024. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI

Among those adversely named was MP Michael Mawanda, for his alleged “involvement in West Mengo Growers Cooperative Union Limited and Bumwambu Growers Cooperative Society Limited”, and MP Mudimi for alleged “involvement in mismanagement” of Lambuli Central Pulpery Cooperative Society Limited, Bumwambu Growers Cooperative Society Limited, Masaaba Cooperative Union Limited and Buyaka Growers Cooperative Society Limited.

The Committee reported that Busiki MP Paul Akamba, who was violently rearrested at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala last Friday after being granted bail in a budget-related corruption case, allegedly received Shs130 million under Lambuli Central Pulpery Cooperative Society Limited where MP Mudimi is a leader.

Parliament Speaker Anita Among said yesterday that she had been briefed that Mr Akamba was rearrested over another alleged offence whose particulars she did not disclose.

In a written October 11 submission to the Committee, MP Mawanda declared that payments related to compensation for West Mengo Growers Cooperative Union were received by M/S Mungoma Justin & Co Advocates and provided accompanying payment vouchers.

“Notwithstanding the above accountabilities as submitted by Hon Mawanda, the Committee is perplexed at how the Honourable Member, who is neither a beneficiary, a shareholder in West Mengo Growers Cooperative Limited nor a partner in M/S Mungoma Justin & Co Advocates, would have access to such accountability documents,” the Trade Committee noted.

Other individuals that the parliamentary committee recommended for investigations included former Kyankwanzi District Woman MP Ann Maria Nankabirwa, in relation to Wamala Growers Cooperative Union Limited, a one Mr Ezra Kabali and Nandaah Wamukoota.

In light of the findings, Parliament recommended Trade ministry halt further compensation payouts to cooperative societies until standards are in place to stem abuse.

Farmers’ payout scandal

In a bid to expedite payments for war loss compensations to cooperatives, the Cabinet in 2016 constituted an inter-ministerial committee dubbed the “verification committee.” However, this committee worked in parallel with a verification committee established by Trade ministry, rendering findings conflicting and redundant.  

The committees were tasked to analyse claims by cooperatives, ascertain the value of the assets lost in various past wars, evaluate the current position of the cooperative unions, ascertain the number of properties, livestock destroyed and determine the claimants’ package for compensation, among other roles.

This newspaper in a December 3, 2023 story based on the Trade Committee inquiries reported that the Ministry of Trade’s verification committee lacked justification to exist and technical competence to do the work and ended with inconclusive outcomes. It was established that the verification exercise was not a prerequisite for the payment of claims. As an example, cooperatives such as Banyankole Kweterana Cooperative Union, Bwavumpologoma Cooperative Union, and South Bukedi Cooperative Union were paid without undergoing the verification process. 

Police started investigating government compensation to cooperatives that lost property due to war last December. The Ministry of Trade suspected that more than 30 MPs participated in the theft of the compensation to the cooperatives.
The parliamentary committee investigated the allegations and found out that the payments were inflated by at least Shs48b.
MPs found out that some of the claimants were non-existent.