Police want Parliament staff punished over car deal leak

The Deputy Speaker’s new car at Parliament on June 7. The embellished expenditure of the luxury cars has drawn public condemnation.   PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA. 

What you need to know:

  • Police say this will serve as a deterrent against other future behaviour.

An internal parliamentary probe has recommended sanctions against staffers believed to have leaked information regarding the Shs2.4b procurement of two luxury cars for Speaker Anita Annet Among and her deputy Thomas Tayebwa.
A confidential probe report by the Parliament’s Criminal Investigations Department prepared for the Parliamentary Commission, the administrative arm of the House, recommended the sanctioning of one staff and the close monitoring of two others to serve as a deterrent.

“Upholding this view will inevitably mitigate the bad practices of sharing confidential documents to unauthorised persons with impunity,” the report signed off by Mr Charles Twiine, the deputy parliamentary CID boss, reads in part.
Mr Twiine’s team commenced investigation into the matter on June 13 following a complaint by the Clerk to Parliament, Mr Adolf Mwesige, over leakage of procurement details on social media by journalist Agather Atuhaire in April.
It remains unclear whether the commission effected the recommendations, but the 2010 Whistleblowers Protection Act emboldens individuals in both the private and public sectors to disclose information in public interest that relates to irregular, illegal or corrupt practices.

The law also provides for the protection against victimisation of persons who make disclosures, and related matters.

Controversial issue
Section one of the Act states that any person may make a disclosure of information where that person reasonably believes that the information tends to show, among others, that corruption, criminality or other unlawful acts have been committed, is being committed or is likely to be committed; or that a public officer or employee has failed, refused or neglected to comply with any legal obligation to which that officer or employee is subject.

The leak elicited widespread public uproar over the embellished expenditure at a time when the country was and is dealing with embers of spiralling inflation. The luxury cars were procured from the United Kingdom and supplied by a firm whose online profile shows a real estate portfolio.
Parliament defended the expenditure as justified, budgeted for, and done in accordance with the law. Officials indicated that the purchase of the cars had already been cleared during the last financial year to replace older ones that were about a decade old. They also added that clearance was received from the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) not to use a competitive process of procurement.

Controversy, however, swirled over the manner in which the procurement panned out. The procurement specifically came into focus after Mr Mwesige wrote to the procurement umpire, PPDA, requesting for clearance to acquire the luxury cars—two S-Class series, L500 L AMG Line—from UK.
A litany of irregularities detailed by this newspaper included the contracted supplier, Ms Albeity Ltd, not providing a bid security, one of the standard requirements in public procurements in case a service provider fails to execute the contract.
A procurement committee that is reported to have tried to challenge the award of the contract to supply the vehicles to Albeity was disbanded, and another one set up to see the deal through.

No government investigating agency—PPDA, Inspectorate of Government (IG), and others—further put the matter under the microscope, ostensibly because no one complained. 
The Whistleblowers Act also details that any disclosure of an impropriety made by a whistleblower is protected if they, among others, they make the disclosure to an authorised officer[s] including the Speaker of Parliament or Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Director of Public Prosecution, IG, Directorate of Ethics and Integrity, Resident District Commissioner, or a police officer not below the rank of Assistant Inspector of Police.

Settling scores 
The police report, however, claims that the leakage was deliberate and intended to blackmail the new leadership of the parliamentary commission. It adds that this was done as “reprisal” by the said staffer after they were removed from the office of the Deputy Speaker and, later, the contracts committee as well.
“We also observed that the former contract committee members are up in hands though clandestinely to also use any available avenue to hurt the institution of the commission by revealing any information to the media or other legitimate statutory investigators with some information they deem unlawfully and that was influenced by the leadership of parliament in previous procurements,” the report reads in part.

It adds: “We also observed that Agather Atuhire has a personal hatred for the institution of  Parliament and has continued to run several hate programmes on various electronic platforms both TV and  online websites but majorly fed information by a cross section of people within Parliament.”
According to the report, the CID investigators were able to link Ms Atuhaire to the supposed leaker of the information.

Ms Atuhaire told Saturday Monitor that she was “not aware of the parliamentary probe [report] and not privy to its contents.”
After the fallout from the leaks and subsequent widespread rancour, Ms Atuhaire, a former journalist with Uganda Radio Network and the Independent Publications Ltd, reported that her life was “in danger.”
The police probe also recommended to Mr Mwesige that several House staffers “be closely monitored” considering the fact that they are close to the supposed leaker of the procurement information and who has “vowed to completely undermine the Parliamentary Commission moreover within the time frame of when the documents leaked.”