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Mathias Mpuuga: a model of resilience?

Mathias Mpuuga

Mathias Mpuuga

On Heroes day, via Space on X hosted by Yuliana Namubiru and attended by 193,000 listeners, Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba faced off with an angry crowd of his digital critics and emerged as a model of resilience.

Lawyer Isaac Ssemakadde listened in and summarized the discussion between the former Leader of the Opposition (LOP) and activists Dr Jimmy Ssentongo and Sam Mugumya.

Whereas the topic of the discussion was “Leadership Ethics, Accountability and Conflict of Interest”, its specific backdrop was Mpuuga’s illustrious career, right from his campus days (1995-1997) under the auspices of Democratic Party’s youth wing, the Uganda Young Democrats, and of the Nkomba Za Mbogo Youth Club which catapulted him into Buganda kingdom’s “Great Lukiiko” in his second year at Makerere University and later into the Kabaka’s government as Youth minister in 2008.

He was granted leave to pivot into elective politics where he has served as the MP for Nyendo-Mukungwe municipality in Masaka district from 2011 to date. Thanks to the conversational acuity of the host and relentless probing of her eminent speakers’ panel and several listeners who chimed in, the discussion surveyed the legal, ethical, moral, political, socio-economic, and even psychological implications of the talk of town: the “Service Award” allegedly appropriated by the parliamentary commission to Mpuuga (Shs 500m) as the former LOP and three NRM commissioners (Shs 400m each).

Clearly fed up of what he called a “public lynch mob” and a continuing distortion of the issues by “self-seekers who are out to get me”, Mpuuga welcomed the discussion and expressed enthusiasm for further “inquests” by parliament where a putative motion for his impeachment from the parliament commission is underway, and by the judiciary where putative civil and criminal cases have been filed against him and the parliamentary commission.

The legislator decried the lack of similar decorum and respect for due process by Robert Kyagulanyi (aka Bobi Wine), his archrival in the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party, who he accused of impulsively kicking off a campaign of calumny and intraparty skirmishes against him, before seeking the necessary clarifications about the service award from the parliamentary commission and parliament.

“THE CONTEXT MATTERS”

Citing the limitations of the sub judice rule, the 48-year-old advocate of the High court sparsely commented on the service award. He urged listeners to appreciate that it was not his personal initiative to solicit a service award, but rather the matter had been on the radar of both parliament and the parliamentary commission long before he joined the latter body as the LOP on May 24, 2021.

Under the terms of section 6 of the Administration of Parliament Act, which came into force on August 15, 1997, the parliamentary commission is, empowered “(f ) to cause to be prepared in each financial year estimates of revenues and expenditure for parliament for the next financial year; (g) to make recommendations to parliament on or, with the approval of parliament, determine the allowances payable and privileges available to the speaker, deputy speaker and members of parliament; and (h) to do such other things as may be necessary for the well-being of the members and staff of parliament.”

The commission was elevated to a constitutional body by the insertion of article 87A via the second amendment of the 1995 Constitution on September 30, 2005. By the insertion of articles 82A and 108A, the second amendment re-established the rival offices of LOP and prime minister respectively—after a 20-year hiatus—as part of the reforms to engender the multiparty form of democracy.

Consequently, these reforms caused an amendment of the Administration of Parliament Act of 1997 on August 4, 2006 to make the constitutionally mandated provisions for “(a) how [the LOP] is chosen and how [the LOP] ceases to hold that office; (b) his or her status; (c) his or her role and functions; and (d) the benefits and privileges attached to his or her office.”

Speaking from some knowledge, the veteran legislator explained that while parliament had since 2010 progressively provided for the emoluments and benefits of a retired president, vice president, prime minister, speaker, deputy speaker, and of judicial officers as the national revenue increased, it was a self-evident “anomaly” that the basic constitutionally mandated rights of the LOP had been improperly sidelined yet it was also a constitutional office equivalent to that of the prime minister.

“We are all leaders of the two divisions of parliament: prime minister is the team leader of the government side while LOP is the team leader of the opposition side,” urged Mpuuga, before highlighting a nuanced and much-ignored breach of equal opportunities in a multiparty dispensation.

“The LOP and the prime minister perform the same coordination functions and the argument could be made that they should receive the same emoluments and benefits, even on retirement.”

It is against this context that the leadership of the 11th parliament decided to address this historic complaint of marginalization in the inaugural session of the parliamentary commission, which is the appropriate organ to make feasible recommendations to parliament regarding the retirement “allowances payable and privileges available” to the previously disregarded parliamentary leadership offices that were introduced by the second amendment, and “to cause to be prepared in each financial year estimates of revenues and expenditure for parliament for the next financial year.”

“Parliament had to figure out in advance a framework that would begin to curb this discriminative situation before the termination of the two-and-a-half-year mandate of the sitting LOP in December, 2023...The details or nitty gritty were handled by management and in the relevant committees.”

On the whole, Mpuuga rejected social media charges of “corruption, abuse or misuse of power, and conflict of interest” or other criminal wrongdoing as the intolerant views of some members of the chattering classes who are not familiar with the intricate business of parliamentary budgeting as laid down in the relevant legal instruments and parliamentary conventions and traditions.

The former “Walk to Work” protest coordinator concluded with a suggestion that instead of “incubating anarchy” and “inciting public anger or animosity” unreasonably against him and other leaders of parliament who had been singled out for censure, an appropriate “inquest” for the benefit of every public-spirited citizen would thoroughly probe the rationality of the retirement policy in place for all leaders, without being distracted by the opportunists who had hijacked the #Uganda ParliamentExhibition citizens’ initiative for purposes of settling old scores with their rivals.

The author is the CEO Legal Brains Trust, a Kampala-based democracy and human rights watchdog.

Comments

+6 #1 PaulM 2024-06-19 10:24
Counsel Semakadde you have tried so hard but failed to hide the illegality and immorality of this "service award".

Hon. Mpuuga and the commissioners awarded themselves this money without going to the whole parliament as required by the Administration of Parliament Act. This would have made it legal (not necessarily moral) and catered for previous and subsequent LOPs.

Short of this, it was a bribe to compromise the LoP and frustrate the oppostion in particular NUP. The commissioners were added as cover for this illegality and also to compromise them to support mafia AAA’s schemes.

Because this award was not made into law the LoP and commissioners would have no legal basis to claim for it in case it was not awarded which further supports the fact that it was a bribe.
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+6 #2 jose 2024-06-19 11:17
The writer is simply glorifying Mpuuga for money.
That kind of award has never been tabled in the plenary, and to that level the only rewards were that was ever discussed was for the former officials respectively, now nsereko, segona, semuju, and that man from bugiri, are just misleading the public and well aware that the service award was a "get this mpuuga , you have been good to us"
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+4 #3 Uhuru 2024-06-20 05:46
You think so? What I see is someone who is only posturing! I think Mbuuga is politically finished!

But he has time (about two years) to salvage the support he is fast losing. I was one of his ardent supporters and used to tell people that Mbuuga is a presidential material. I will never support him!
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0 #4 Mwesigwa Ndawula 2024-06-22 10:00
If the opposition has always been telling us bad about Mr Museveni's extravagant expenditure why then Hon Mpuuga accepted this award yet tax payers pays him everything to do his work!!

I nolonger feel their moral authority to fight Mr M7 on money matters.!!
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