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Operation clean hands lands noose around Parliament, as UHRC finds itself in crosshairs

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Author: Karoli Ssemogerere. PHOTO/FILE

The public is catching its breath with scenes at the Anti-Corruption Court, a division of the High Court.  Three members of Parliament are accused of soliciting a bribe, by programming funds to the Uganda Human Rights Commission. It’s like a scene from the movies. One MP from Busiki County, the same county that once elected an anti-corruption crusader Basoga Nsadhu a former district information officer to the NRC and later Parliament. Basoga Nsadhu was once accused in 1999 of directing funds from the Custodian Board to loan to Lt Fred Guweddeko. The force with which Mr Akamba was apprehended at the law courts signals there is more to the beef, than the “pleasant exchanges” with the Uganda Human Rights Commission boss. After all, UHRC has been in some form of Siberia. Uganda last year booted UN Human Rights, saying UHRC has the capacity to monitor human rights violations in Uganda.

Things have not been going well for sometime between the executive and Parliament where NRM enjoys an overwhelming majority, at least 80 percent of the elected MPs. Ministers have been literally leapfrogged around by a resilient Parliament. The rationalisation programme passed with several makeovers that left the sacred lambs in place, including the Uganda Road Agency, UNRA, the coffee body, UCDA, the information infrastructure body, NITA and others. Prior to this, debates on expanding the Uganda National Oil Company’s mandate to include importing all white products into Uganda snarled government and put it on its toes.

The precautionary fears have gone into the budgetary process, where Parliament is mandated to appropriate resources to run the budget. After government shifted to programme-based budgeting in 2020/2021, “programme managers” in the Ministry of Finance, officially designated as “economists” wield even more power and discretion in shifting government funds around. The discretion in managing the single government treasury account is almost a power of life and death, when, and whom to pay. Accounting officers have to play the game or go to hell. What hasn’t been clear up to now, save for the supplementary budgets that pass without much scrutiny after the big cow has been carved up, is that Parliament in its discretion can reprogramme funds in the main budgetary process.

This has irked the Executive who has swung at Parliament at a vulnerable time. It is even possible that with the assistance of IT software to bug communication devices, formal and informal lives of MPs is at play.  Ugandans anyway in normal life routinely record each other without the slightest understanding of privacy.  Today wiretaps are unnecessary, software applications like Pegassus can record, and relay conversations freely, while tower locators can pin actual locations of these devices with a click of the mouse.

The public is curious how far this is going to go.  Former spycatcher Jim Katugugu Muhwezi is now Security minister. He sits like a professional at public gatherings but don’t get him wrong anytime, he has 20/20 vision.

Back to UHRC boss Mariam Wangadya. Will she now cause investigation of the blatant manner in which Busiki MP Paul Akamba was rearrested at the High Court? Will the Human Rights Committee Chair at Parliament, Fox Ayelowo Odoi cause hearings to understand the identity of the civilian-clothed personnel, who caused a woman to belch out a scream as if someone had touched her intimate parts?

Everyone is on the edge, there is a lot of unhappiness in high places.  If you want a cheer switch to Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation. Budget day there was full of foot stamping. The lady down south has gone electric, while we continue to blame corruption for our state of affairs. Maybe Mariam Wangadya has found a solution?

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-At-Law and an Advocate.