“As long as everyone is looting you can’t blame parliament,” Speaker Kadaga
By Edith Wandera
In a strongly worded letter, Father Gaetano Batanyenda expressed anger at the 10 billion shillings supplementary budget members of parliament allocated themselves purportedly to fight the COVID-19 virus. Apparently, the MPs will receive on their bank accounts 20 million shillings each, supposedly to sensitize their constituencies on the pandemic. However, this sensitization is the reason President Museveni has been appearing on television almost on a nightly basis. Is Parliament suggesting the president has failed?
Father Gaetano’s letter, written on April 18, rebukes parliament and calls into question Speaker Kadaga’s leadership as well as the ethics of members of parliament, “Parliament has turned into a bunch of thieves that continue to suck poor Ugandans in disguise no matter the situation at hand,” the highly respected religious leader observed.
The looting is taking place amidst unimaginable hunger across the country. “Walk around towns of Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Kabale, Masaka, Jinja etc a huge volume of people are dying of hunger.” Fr Gaetano continued, “Other diseases have also taken advantage to kill our people because the access to medical facilities is very complicated due to the current pandemic situation.”
Some MPs rejected the money. “Today I wrote 2 Parliament rejecting the UGX 20,000,000/= it mysteriously reallocated to MPs from the #Covid_19 supp. Budget. Parliament passed this budget despite insufficient debate. My values prohibit me from condoning unethical and potentially illegal financial practices,” Hon Francis Zaake wrote on Twitter, attaching a letter to the Speaker in which he denounced the payout.
The decision by parliament was particularly wrong because “Ugandans are stuck, hungry without food and not earning,” Fr Gaetano explained in his letter, referring to the blatant thievery as an “unending act of high way robbery, greed and selfishness.”
People are indeed starving. It has been widely reported that the food that was supposed to be distributed was of poor quality, not fit for consumption even by animals. Moreover, officials have been selling it to members of the community. Apparently, trucks are loaded, television cameras are instructed to follow them. Once they reach the destination, they distribute to only a number of families. After the media coverage is done and dusted, the trucks head back with the goods to be shared amongst the officials; sometimes the goods are sold and the money given to top officials. In other words, even the media is conspiring in this looting, which was taking place amidst reports that a supplementary budget was also requested to be handed over to media houses.
The behavior of MPs is a slap in the face of “donors and other Ugandans” who have been trying to make contributions in the fight against COVID-19. “Could the lead problem be the speaker of parliament or the MPs? Is it possible for president to stop this unending thuggery, selfishness and greed?” he asks.
Speaker Kadaga doesn’t deny the thievery. Instead, she justifies it by basically asking whether, with everyone else stealing, why shouldn’t parliamentarians get their share. “Fr Gaetano please take an interest in the following supplementary expenditures Ministry of health 104 bn. Ministry of defense 77 bn, ministry of local govt 36 bn, ministry of disasters 59 bn, Kcca 2bn, ministry of Ict 6bn, you are quiet on looting state resources,” Speaker Rebecca Kadaga wrote on her tweet, suggesting that it is unfair to target parliament when so many others are looting too.
Kadaga forgot that the supplementary budget couldn’t have been as widely looted as it was without the role of parliament that she heads; a supplementary budget is not possible without parliamentary scrutiny and approval. In the end, the buck stops with the Speaker.
In that admission, the Speaker inadvertently confirmed Fr Gaetano’s accusation that in fact the lead problem is the Speaker of parliament. She has demonstrated she has no idea that her House’s primary roles are both to pass laws and monitor and oversee the executive in how it respects those laws. Clearly, Speaker Kadaga has failed in her responsibilities. Claiming that others too have only aggravates her failure; the House which she presides over is after all the one tasked with the responsibility to ensure those others too don’t fail in theirs.