Legislators put Mbabazi on the spot over OPM scam

PARLIAMENT- As Parliament this week opened debate on the graft scandal which rocked the Office of the Prime Minister, a number of MPs on Tuesday warned Mr Amama Mbabazi that if he becomes President, he would never step foot in northern Uganda without police protection.

The warning and renewed calls for the premier to resign came amidst reports that the President had on Monday defended Mr Mbabazi and the former Permanent Secretary at OPM, Mr Pius Bigirimana, in the face of fresh demands that the two be held responsible for the loss of donor funds.

Sources told the Daily Monitor that the President said he read the roles of the PM in the Constitution and that Mr Mbabazi cannot be culpable for the scandal which saw more than Shs50b intended for post-conflict reconstruction of northern Uganda and Karamoja stolen.

Mr Museveni, according to sources who attended the NRM parliamentary caucus at State House on Monday, also described Mr Bigirimana, who he has always maintained was a whistleblower, as a “hero”.

Under pressure, the President last year transferred Mr Bigirimana to the Gender docket and recently described him as a “pumpkin seed” that can germinate anywhere.Several MPs, however, on Tuesday demanded that the PM takes political responsibility for failing to stop the theft of billions of shillings off the Peace, Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) programme.

Aruu MP Odonga Otto told the House on Tuesday that when he informed the country that Shs600m had been diverted from PRDP to buy a Mercedes Benz for the premier and another Shs800m used to armour his Land Cruiser, OPM issued a statement suggesting he was “out of mind”.

“How can you divert money meant for the poor people to buy cars when our people are suffering?” Mr Otto asked. “It is shameless that you want to be President. If you ever step foot in the north without police protection, we shall take the law into our own hands.”Mr Otto added: “I move that he takes personal responsibility. He exerted pressure on the permanent secretary (Bigirimana) to buy him vehicles using PRDP money.”

Alluding to Mbabazi’s undeclared, though suspected, presidential ambitions, Butambala MP Muhammad Kivumbi said: “I don’t care whether some people want to be presidents, prime ministers… President Museveni must take action on the people who abuse donor funds.” While some MPs proposed that even Mr Bigirimana be held responsible for the loss, others blamed former OPM principal accountant Geoffrey Kazinda, whom they said connived with officials from Bank of Uganda and Ministry of Finance.

Some MPs argued that Mr Mbabazi found a “rotten office” a claim the former Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi rejected, saying as far as June 2011, money was being transferred to dormant accounts. Mr Mbabazi was appointed premier in May 2011. Mr Mafabi told the House that Mr Mbabazi should have stopped the theft and demanded that he takes political responsibility.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had allowed Mr Mbabazi to respond to Mr Mafabi but the new Leader of Opposition Wafula Oguttu objected.

The two Opposition kingpins argued that it would be wrong to allow the premier to “bias” members before Parliament debates the PAC report. It was agreed that Mr Mbabazi makes a statement after the debate.

MINORITY REPORTThe report: A minority report on the financial scam has implicated Mr Amama Mbabazi, but he has described the accusations as “obvious nonsense”. Kalungu West MP Jeseph Ssewungu tabled his minority report in which he asked Parliament to hold Mr Mbabazi culpable for his role in the abuse of PRDP money through the purchase of vehicles for ministers at OPM, including his official Mercedes Benz.

‘Mbabazi’s failure’: The report also said Mr Mbabazi interfered in the transfer of former OPM accountant Mr Geoffrey Kazinda, whom the main PAC reports wants investigated for causing financial loss to the taxpayer. The MP wants Mbabazi held responsible for failure in political supervision. But Mr Mbabazi said Mr Ssewungu “suffers from limited knowledge” to understand the rational and local conclusions of the main report on the scam that took place in the OPM.

Source: Daily Monitor

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