Opposition cries foul as Museveni gives Shs741m in cash donations

President Museveni gave out Shs5 billion in cash and pledges between July and October last year but the opposition say such patronage gives the incumbent an unfair advantage in the election.

The sum includes Shs741 million that Mr Museveni handed out in cash while on an anti-poverty tour across the country and Shs4.3 billion in pledges but does not include pledges of livestock, motor vehicles, land and farm implements, among others.

State House budget
The money was part of Shs6b originally allocated to the President for donations under State House’s Shs80b budget. The matter has drawn criticism this week after NRM party MPs passed a record supplementary budget of Shs602b, which includes an extra Shs18b for presidential donations, and which doubles the State House budget to Shs160b.

Mr Wafula Oguttu, the spokesperson for the opposition FDC party, yesterday described the handouts as “unfair” and accused Mr Museveni of “using the law to break the law”.

He said: “It is totally unfair. Why does he have to ask for more money for donations during campaigns? This is the money you see him giving MPs. They approve more money for donations today, then the next day they give NRM MPs Shs20 million each for campaigns. It is illegal.”

Mao’s take
Mr Nobert Mao, the DP presidential candidate, said Parliament has “become an arm of President Museveni and the NRM to the extent that it no longer champions the rights of citizens”.

Mr Mao, who is a former MP and chairman of Gulu District, said the handouts tilt the election landscape in favour of the incumbent.

“We are going to make this a campaign issue,” he told this newspaper by telephone. “They tried to force Gulu to divert Shs170 million to fulfill some of Museveni’s pledges. We refused. His donations are not part of the Consolidated Fund. They should have a clear plan and budget.”

State House officials were unavailable for comment last night. The deputy presidential spokesperson, Ms Lindah Nabusayi, however, defended the presidential handouts in an article in this newspaper last year – which she wrote after NRM MP Peter Mutuluza condemned the practice.

Ms Nabusayi wrote: “The President is a Fountain of Honour who is entitled to donate to any cause, at anytime, anywhere. The Presidential campaigns have not started, so the claim that he is trying to sway voters is really nonsensical.”

The law bars candidates from bribing voters and Mr Museveni has only made one cash pledge since the campaigns started – a Shs40 million donation to one of the contestants of the Kyabazingaship of Busoga.

Mr Museveni, however, always conducts a countrywide tour before each election in which he makes pledges and donations. Critics say this is a disguised campaign that allows him to offer inducements to potential voters out of the public purse, a privilege unavailable to other candidates.

Ms Cissy Kagaba, the head of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, said yesterday that passing the “emergency” supplementary budget during a campaign period raises suspicion.

“This is a clear case of misuse of public funds,” she said. “There is also no clear procedure and criteria the incumbent uses to give these donations. At least the public is not aware of it. And how is the money donated accounted for?”

Mr Godber Tumushabe of the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment says the latest happenings are consistent with ruling by patronage.
“Where is the planning? This shows government’s high level of financial indiscipline,” Mr Tumushabe said.