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Uganda Parliament to Probe Alleged Government Graft

  • Peter Clottey

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni addresses the ruling party members in Entebbe, Uganda, April 24, 2012.

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni addresses the ruling party members in Entebbe, Uganda, April 24, 2012.

In Uganda, the parliamentary Public Affairs Committee (PAC) plans to begin an inquiry into the Auditor General’s report, which alleges that officials in the prime minister’s office misappropriated state funds.

Paul Mwiru, the vice chairperson of PAC, said senior government ministers, including Janet Museveni, the wife of President Yoweri Museveni who serves as minister for Karamoja, will be asked to explain their roles in the alleged financial malfeasance.

“We have a report of the Auditor General in, as far as investigation of the office of the prime minister was concerned, where money budgeted for planned activities in districts was diverted and spent by the office of the prime minister amongst themselves,” said Mwiru.

“Ugandans should expect that, by the end of the three weeks or two, they would have known who took their public resources from state coffers because this is unacceptable and this is what we are trying to achieve as parliament.”

The report says about $19 million earmarked for the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan for northern Uganda was misappropriated.

The funds, which it added were part of the foreign aid the prime minister’s office received for northern Uganda and Karamoja, were spent on buying high-end luxury vehicles for ministers in the department.

“We shall invite the office of the prime minister and the relevant ministers [to testify], and among the ministers, of course, include the prime minister [and] the first lady, because what is apparent is that she travelled eight times to Israel in one month,” said Mwiru.

But, Tamale Mirundi, presidential press secretary, said the first lady will defend herself when she appears before the parliamentary inquiry group.

“Did she travel for holiday or tourism? She travelled for official duty because Israel is an expert in agriculture in arid areas. In any case, the constitution does not limit the number of times a first lady should travel to Israel,” said Mirundi.

Supporters of the ruling party say the first lady is being investigated to disgrace President Museveni. But, Mwiru denies the accusation.

“There is evidence this money was paid through a bank account in Barclays Bank. So, really, all that will come out because what they want to do is to undermine the committee doing [its] work,” said Mwiru.

Some Ugandans are skeptical of the inquiry saying it is yet another investigation, which would not lead to the punishment of those who have committed graft. They also said the majority members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) in parliament will undermine any proposed punishment for those accused of graft. But, Mwiru disagreed.

“Whoever will steal public resources will not go unpunished and that is what we are doing as a committee of parliament,” said Mwiru.