Three MPs remanded  over budget corruption

MPs Yusuf Mutembuli of Bunyole East (L), Paul Akamba of Busiki County (C) and District Woman MP for Lwengo, Cissy Namujju Dionizia (R) appear before the Chief Magistrate Joan Aciro at the Anti-Corruption court in Kampala to answer corruption allegations on June 12, 2024. PHOTO/ISAAC KASAMANI

What you need to know:

  • The particulars of the charge are that the three legislators on May 13, 2024 at Hotel Africana in Kampala, allegedly solicited from Ms Mariam Wangadya, the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission, an undue advantage of 20% of the anticipated enhanced budget for the commission.
  • On June 6, while delivering the State of the Nation Address, President Yoweri Museveni promised action against MPs and Ministry of Finance officials whom he said were involved in budget corruption

Three Members of Parliament spent their first night behind the gates of Luzira prison as the budget corruption probe ordered by President Museveni start to bite.
The MPs are Ms Cissy Namujju Dionizia, 46, (Lwengo District Woman), Mr Yusuf Mutembuli, 43, (Bunyole East) and Mr Paul Akamba, 41, (Busiki County).

The trio, who had spent two nights at Kira Division Police Station in Wakiso District, was produced before the Nakasero-based Anti-Corruption Court presided over by Chief Magistrate Joan Aciro.

It was the prosecution’s case that, “on the 13th day of May at Hotel Africana in Kampala City, the group solicited from Ms Mariam Wangadya, the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), an undue advantage of 20 percent of the anticipated enhanced budget for UHRC for the Financial Year 2024/25.”

Bunyole East MP Yusuf Mutembuli, his Busiki counterpart Paul Akamba, and Lwengo District Woman MP Cissy Dionizia  Namujju in a police van heading to the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on June 12, 2024. Photo/Frank Baguma

The Director of Public Prosecutions stated that the MPs did this by asserting that they were able to exert improper influence over the decision-making of the Budget Committee of Parliament to increase the Commission’s budget.
All the accused MPs denied the corruption charge that attracts a 10-year maximum jail term upon conviction or a fine of Shs4.8 million.

“I have understood the charge, very untrue,” MP Mutembuli retorted in response to whether he is guilty or not before Chief Magistrate Aciro.
The male MPs were the first to be brought to court aboard a dark-blue police minibus at 2:45pm amid tight security.  They were then led to the court waiting cells.
About 15 minutes later, the female legislator dressed in a flowered long blue dress was also driven in.

Lwengo District Woman Member of Parliament, Ms Cissy Namujju Dionizia (C) arrives at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala on June 12, 2024. PHOTO/ ISAAC KASAMANI

 Forty minutes later, a bang on a court door signalled the arrival of the presiding chief magistrate.
After all the MPs denied the charge, a host of defence lawyers made a case for their bail.
 “It’s our submission that the accused persons be admitted on bail on presumption of innocence,” Counsel Herbert Kidiya submitted.
 The defence lawyers also argued that their clients have substantial sureties, mainly fellow MPs, and also have fixed places of abode.

 But State Attorney Nicholas Kawooya opposed the bail application, before asking the court to grant him more time to enable him verify the bail documents, including the fixed places of abode presented by the sureties and the accused persons.

Busiki County Member of Parliament, Mr Paul Akamba (Left), Lwengo District Woman MP, Ms Cissy Dionizia  Namujju (centre) and Bunyole East MP,  Mr Yusuf Mutembuli (right) appearing before Chief Magistrate Joan Aciro at the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala where they are to be formally charged over an alleged budget corruption scandal involving Parliament and Finance Ministry. Photo/Isaac Kasamani

 “In the same vein, we need to verify the particulars of the sureties and we require some time to do that,” he added.
 Further, he cited Section 77 of the Magistrates Court Act that demands that in considering the grant of bail to suspects, the court has to look at the gravity of the offence. Mr Kawooya argued the corruption case against the MPs is of public interest, an argument counsel Asuman Basalirwa, one of the defence lawyers, dismissed in his rebuttal.

 “In brief rejoinder for accused one, I want to invite the court to take judicial notice that the accused is a Member of Parliament who should not in any way create any problem for the state to find,” Mr Basalirwa argued.

He added: “Secondly, the learned State Attorney had submitted on the gravity of the charge, but according to the charge sheet before court, no violence was committed in the said alleged offence, which attracts up to the maximum punishment of 10 years imprisonment or a fine of 240 currency points (Shs4.8m).”

However, presiding Chief Magistrate Joan Aciro said it was way beyond court time, before adjourning the bail application hearing to tomorrow.