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Truth behind MPs corrupt alliances and shameless bribery

Speaker Anita Among

Speaker Anita Among

Recent reports have shined a bright light on a troubling trend of pervasive bribery within the parliamentary system, undermining both its integrity and functionality.

Allegations point to a systematic concern where leaders of parliamentary committees, along with managers of government enterprises, parastatals and departments, engage in corrupt practices to evade public accountability.

Additionally, it is reported that funds are also flowing from the executive branch, aimed at influencing MPs to support specific political decisions. This complex web of bribery not only compromises the legislative process but also raises significant concerns about the transparency and ethical governance of these institutions.

An incident, which happened at the start of the current term of this parliament, laid bare the troubling practice of cash inducements in the Ugandan parliament. MPs were each given Shs 40 million within the first three months of their current term. This allocation was ostensibly for voting to pass a supplementary budget.

According to media reports, NRM, independent and opposition MPs reportedly received their payments in separate places. The case of Bukoto South MP Dr Twaha Kagabo, who received one of these allocations, highlights the complexities involved in these transactions. Dr Kagabo faced significant threats after publicly declaring his intention to return the funds.

Despite his attempts to return the money through the office of the former leader of opposition, Mathias Mpuuga, he was instructed to take the money back to its original point of distribution, an effort that ultimately proved fruitless.

ETHICAL DILEMMAS

The National Unity Platform issued a directive then for the recipients of these funds to refund them. In response and reflecting the political pressures and ethical dilemmas such payments can create, Dr Kagabo is reportedly considering switching his allegiance to the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

This case underscores the profound impact that financial inducements can have on parliamentary integrity and the personal and political decisions of lawmakers. On December 12, 2023, at the party headquarters in Makerere-Kavule, Kampala, Robert Kyagulanyi addressed journalists regarding the allocation of funds in the recently passed Shs 3.5 trillion supplementary budget.

He highlighted that Shs 55.6 billion of this budget was specifically earmarked to ‘thank’ parliamentarians for approving the budget. Kyagulanyi disclosed that according to reliable sources, out of Shs 78.6 billion allocated for the State House’s classified expenditures, Shs 55.6 billion was intended for distribution among the 529 MPs, including ex-officio members, with each reportedly receiving Shs 100 million.

At the same press briefing, Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba, the then-leader of the opposition in parliament, confirmed that although the funds had not yet been disbursed, there was no doubt about their inclusion in the classified expenditures of the State House.

A fortnight ago, The Observer reported that members of parliament (MPs) allegedly received bribes ranging from Shs 500,000 to Shs 2 million to advocate for the retention of certain agencies that the government had proposed to return to their mother ministries.

These agencies, which faced the prospect of being phased out, actively lobbied MPs to support their continued existence. The financial incentives reportedly came from influential figures within both the government and parliament, aiming to sway MPs in favour of retaining these agencies, an allegation the speaker roundly denied.

These testimonies corroborate the recent complaint by the minister of Public Service, Muruli Mukasa, who expressed concerns that the decision to retain certain agencies was influenced by intense lobbying efforts by these agencies rather than their actual relevance. However, Speaker of Parliament Anita Among swiftly refuted Mukasa’s claims, denying allegations that MPs were bribed to preserve specific agencies.

“Our conscience is clear; nobody has been bribed. Whatever actions we undertake here are on behalf of our constituents. If people want to engage in blackmail or spread rumors about bribery, that’s their business. Our focus is on fulfilling our duties,” Among asserted.

Among also refuted similar claims of bribery emerging from cabinet. “And I want to address the executive and anyone else making these allegations: MPs legislate on behalf of their constituencies, for their people. Take yesterday at UNRA, for instance, it was a unanimous decision; even the minister of Public Service, Muruli Mukasa, conceded. So, why should we be blamed? We are here to legislate for our people. I will encourage my constituents to investigate and determine who was really behind this and how it transpired. Because although the headline is alarming, the content reveals nothing. What is their objective? They want the public to despise parliament,” she said.

“It is the duty of MPs to legislate. They require no bribery to fulfill their responsibilities. Anyone with evidence of bribery should take legal action. Repeatedly making allegations of bribery is often done by individuals who believe everything revolves around them. Many have been deceived by such scandalous claims suggesting there’s excessive money in parliament. Some have even risked their assets to join parliament in hopes of gaining wealth, only to leave poorer than when they entered,” Chris Obore, the director of communication at parliament, said.

While paying tribute to former Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni acknowledged reports that some MPs were soliciting bribes from entities appearing before them.

HOW MONEY CHANGES HANDS

This troubling trend underscores broader concerns about ethical conduct, accountability and transparency within the legislative body, prompting calls for urgent reforms to restore public trust and uphold democratic principles. An MP, who requested anonymity, shared with The Observer that financial transactions often occur at the committee level.

The committee’s leadership interacts with the relevant agency, party, or body prior to their appearance, sometimes sending committee clerks to facilitate these interactions.

“If the party fails to comply, they aggressively quiz the respective parties or agencies before the media, broadcasting the encounters live. The debates are normally combative, but eventually, tensions ease as the parties or agencies capitulate and comply,” he explained.

Another legislator noted that agencies or parties frequently provide funds to the top leadership of the committees to ease their proceedings. This leadership then instructs committee members on how to conduct the meetings.

“On many occasions, the media are barred from committee meetings, although sometimes they are allowed to cover them,” the legislator added, highlighting the selective transparency in these proceedings.

He noted that the money is usually collected by the committee leadership or the committee clerks, then distributed among the members, with the most active members receiving the largest shares. This distribution transcends political affiliations; everyone involved receives a portion.

“The committee is paid to produce a favourable report; it’s difficult for parliament to reject a committee report because these committees represent parliament and engage most frequently with stakeholders. Therefore, agencies seeking to influence parliamentary decisions often target these committees first,” another MP explained.

He added that it’s rare for a controversial issue to be resolved without MPs being influenced.

“These stories are commonplace, and no MP should deny this reality. Let me tell you, if the public truly understood our actions, they would stone us when we return to our constituencies,” he said.

An opposition MP who entered parliament in 2021 recounted that his colleague warned him never to refuse money, emphasizing that it could be dangerous, and advised him not to sign any documents if he decided to accept the money.

REACTIONS TO BRIBERY

In an interview for this story, Peter Walubiri, a senior counsel and political analyst, emphasized the importance of contextualizing the alleged bribery allegations against members of parliament.

“The context is that President Museveni has institutionalized corruption as a major pillar of his governance. It starts with the president and permeates through all public and private offices,” Walubiri stated.

He noted that corruption is prevalent at various levels of society, including local council leaders who falsify land ownership documents and write inaccurate reports for bail.

“Teachers are corrupt; corruption is rife in all facets of public life,” he added.
“Museveni relies on corruption to bribe parliament into passing legislation and budgets that favour him. He aims to keep Ugandans in poverty, compelling them to engage in corrupt dealings as the economy flounders. Public officers may earn little, but they manage to thrive through these means,” he stated.

“There are two pervasive evils: corruption and greed. Even those with substantial salaries engage in corruption because their greed is insatiable. Everybody wants to build a hotel, own a shopping mall, acquire square miles of ranch land, or construct palaces; such ambitions cannot be financed with regular salaries. Visit the villages and you’ll see 10-bedroom mansions. In Kampala, there are mansions and blocks of apartments sitting empty, like those in Najjeera. This is the epitome of greed,” he explained.

He also commented on the pervasive begging mentality, noting, “Peasants and MPs alike cannot cope. Their incomes are insufficient to cover funeral expenses, education, healthcare, or to repair broken bridges, which the government neglects. Thus, MPs are forced to seek alternative means of survival.”

TOEING THE 2005 PRECEDENT

Sarah Bireete, a lawyer and human rights activist, pointed out that the issue of bribery in Uganda’s parliament was instigated by the president in 2005 with the infamous Shs 5 million handout to lift term limits.

“He set a standard that has now become a culture in parliament: for them to legislate, appropriate, and conduct oversight, they have to be paid on top of their substantial salaries,” she explained.

“It’s not that MPs are poorly compensated; they are among the best paid in Uganda. The culture of bribery, especially concerning constitutional amendments, was introduced and entrenched by the president and has now extended to the budget and supplementary budgets. This culture will persist as long as the National Resistance Movement (NRM) is in power,” she added.

Godber Tumushabe, a lawyer and policy analyst, described the NRM as a corrupt enterprise.

“It survives and thrives on various forms of corruption, from monetary corruption to the pillaging and plunder of budgetary resources, and the creation of political and appointive positions.”

“This isn’t about whether MPs receive money anymore. The real surprise would be if they weren’t paid, given they need to operate within the patronage network that runs the NRM government. Until Ugandans strive to change this, they should expect to see an increase in the types of bribery and corruption prevalent today,” he stated.

Comments

+1 #1 Rubinda 2024-05-09 07:18
M7= CORRUPTION!
Whoever is fed up with corruption, must work towards EJECTING M7.
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0 #2 kabayekka 2024-05-09 08:58
There it is all clear for the Kingdom state to read and understand. This sytem of bribery was actually instigated by Dr Obote I. Amin locked up this parliament.

The crooked head of corruption arrived for Idi Amin's government when Asian traders were chased off from Uganda. And so on and so fourth... The Kingdom state of Buganda to stay meaningful within the international community, it must not participate in the next national election which is not going to be free and fair!
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