NUP MPs defy Bobi Wine on Shs40m ‘handshake’

Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake (right), and other supporters of the National Unity Platform at the NUP offices in Kamwokya, Kampala. PHOTO / MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • The cash bonanza saga started on Saturday last week with all MPs receiving Shs40m from the President’s office at Parliament. The money was, according to sources, a token of appreciation for passing a supplementary budget. 

Opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, faces the biggest test of his leadership after members of his National Unity Platform (NUP) party in Parliament slammed calls to return the Shs40 million handshake.

After the 48-hour- deadline passed last evening without any single NUP legislator showing up with the money, the party leadership in Parliament decided to call an emergency caucus meeting today to decide the way forward. 

Mr John Baptist Nambeshe, the Opposition whip in Parliament who was in charge of receiving the money from party MPs, narrated how he had camped at his office since Tuesday waiting for the MPs but none showed up until he left for other businesses last evening. 

“Even those people from whom we were expecting the money from have not yet show up,” Mr Nambeshe said. 

The cash bonanza saga started on Saturday last week with all MPs receiving Shs40m from the President’s office at Parliament. The money was, according to sources, a token of appreciation for passing a supplementary budget. 

On Monday night, the leaders of NUP held a crisis meeting at the Kamwokya offices in which Bobi Wine gave the MPs an ultimatum of 48 hours to return the controversial cash given to lawmakers for passing of a Shs77b supplementary classified budget. 

The NUP MPs, who talked to the Monitor last evening, laughed off the directive and vowed to keep the money. Other lawmakers admitted receiving the handshake and at the same time challenged Bobi Wine to prove that they received the said cash. 

Some MPs, who did not want to be named in this story because of the sensitivity of the matter, asked Bobi Wine and other party leaders to do whatever they want and reiterated that they were not ready to return the money because they did not know where to take it in the first place. 

The MPs also indicated that they cannot take back the money since they were not even sure whether the cash would end up in the right hands or not. Another legislator from Central Uganda said it was “foolhardy for NUP leaders to imagine that MPs would accept to take back the money yet others are going to enjoy it”.

 Other legislators indicated that the money would go to critical projects in their constituencies and advised Mr Nambeshe and “the principal” to “stop the drama”.

 Sources close to Kamwokya, however, told Daily Monitor yesterday that the defiance of MPs on the cash bonanza was going to be a big problem which would mark the beginning of what they called “a fundamental disagreement between Bobi Wine and the MPs.” 

On May 19, Parliament approved a Shs618b supplementary budget. Details show that Shs77b was allocated to State House for classified expenditure while the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) got Shs152b through the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs.

A total of Shs64.4b was earmarked for bankrolling Operation Shujaa, the ongoing joint UPDF-Congolese army mission to counter Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), while Shs87.5b was set aside to facilitate security operations in Karamoja Sub-region. 

Our investigations show that members of Parliament’s Budget Committee rejected the State House supplementary request when it was first presented, arguing that the intended allocation did not have a vote and its purpose, dubbed as “classified”, unexplained.  

Yesterday, sources within NUP disclosed that the the cash details had divided the party along members of the former DP bloc and the MPs who belonged to the original People Power pressure formation with the latter group supporting the return of the money.

Mpuuga speaks out

Although Mr Nambeshe and other party officials indicated that some NUP MPs had admitted receiving the Shs 40m handshake, his boss, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, told this publication last evening that if any NUP members come out to confess to have received what he termed as illegal money, the leadership would crack the whip. 

“At the moment I have not received anyone. Should there emerge evidence that any members are complicit, the party disciplinary proceedings shall be preferred on the affected members,” Mr Mpuuga said. 

Asked whether he was not aware of some of his members coming out to confess to receiving the money, Mr Mpuuga said: “I deal with Party matters officially not through media! My point is the party position is clear, to those who wish to confess and therefore proceed to declare the source and purpose of the said money and those who will fail to make clear of their status but found culpable.”

On Tuesday this publication interviewed some of the MPs who admitted to receiving the money among whom were Mr Charles Tebandeke (Baale), Mr Twaha Kagabo (Bukoto South), Mr Steven Sserubula (Lugazi Municipality), and Ms Janepher Egunyu Nantume (Buvuma Woman representative).

When asked why he had not returned the cash yesterday, Mr Twaha said: “I am in a training, I can’t talk to you.”

Mr Tebandeke promised to get back to this reporter but by press time he had not yet communicated back.

Mr Sserubula, who said his friend had received the money on his behalf, yesterday said: “That friend of mine lied to me. He doesn’t have the money.”

Mr David Lewis Rubongoya, the Secretary-General of NUP yesterday said the party was set to hold another crisis meeting today to give a way-forward for the errant party MPs on the matter.

MPs warned on corruption

Ms Kasule Lumumba, the State Minister for General Duties in the Prime Minister’s office, during a training for MPs at Hotel Africana yesterday asked legislators to guard against corruption that she says is eating them up some.

“An MP says for me to sign a committee report, they must bring something here. Don’t cheapen yourselves, keep Parliament high,” she said.

Past incidents

In 2005, MPs received Shs5m each in order to remove the term limit cap from the 1995 constitution.

In 2011, parliament wired Shs20m to each of the 329 MPs in parliament, 28 days to the general elections, a day after the ruling party forced through a controversial supplementary budget of Shs602 billion.

In 2020, MPs took Shs20m each from Covid-19 supplementary budget request

Parliament’s position on the matter

The National Unity Platform (NUP) party has in a statement claimed that MPs, including some who subscribe to NUP, have been paid Shs40 million in cash from Parliament , and that Speaker Anita Among was involved in the impugned payments.

National Unity Platform is the largest Opposition party in Parliament, and by virtue of that, have representation in the Parliamentary Commission, which is the Legislature’s    administrative deci sion-making organ.

Parliament distances itself from the alleged payment as claimed by the NUP, and treats it as a deliberate, persistent smear campaign against the leadership of Parliament.

Any payment to MPs by the Commission is charged on the Consolidated Account, and remitted to an individual MP’s bank account. If indeed there has been any such payment by Parliament to MPs outside the known procedures as the NUP cl aim s, wouldn’t it have been the right thing for the party to interest the accountability Committees, c haired by its Members, in the matter with evidenc e for action?

As leader s, the MPs who NUP claims received the money are duty-bound under Section 1O of the Pena l Code Act 2002 (as amended) to declare the same to the Inspectorate of Government for proper investigation.

Short of the above, the statement is an effort to tarnish the institution of Parliament where ironically, NUP has representation at the highest decision making organs - the Committees and Commission.

It is unfortunate that a section of the media has picked up and published the same allegations, yet they ought to interrogate these kinds of claims with professional fairness and rigor.

The image of Parliament should not be sacrificed at the altar of internal party intrigues. Parliament belongs to all citizens, not an individual political party, therefore; respect to Parliament is respect to citizens.

The public is advised to treat the statement from NUP as mere allegations without basis  since , as earlier mentioned, Parliament does not make cash payment to MPs.

Chris Obore, Parliament’s director for communication and public affairs