As soon as the official question-and-answer session ended at State House, Entebbe on Thursday, April 27, some members of the oil cash bonanza probe team leaned over towards President Museveni and whispered to him their problems.
Insider sources said that before the Thursday meeting, Abdu Katuntu, the chairman of the investigating parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), had warned his charges against asking for personal favours from the president.
Katuntu’s committee has spent the last four months investigating the irregularity of the Shs 6 billion reward given to some 42 government officials who successfully defended Uganda’s capital gains tax claim against oil exploration companies. But Katuntu’s warning went unheeded by the MPs when they got within earshot of Museveni.
According to our sources, as soon as the president ended his testimony, some MPs took turns to speak privately with him. According to multiple sources familiar with the Entebbe meeting, Katuntu effectively contained the MPs during the committee’s official business session at State House but when that ended, MPs went on rampage.
“After the meeting, the president invited us for a group photo and this is when the MPs started [whispering],” said an MP who attended the meeting.
This MP singled out Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Municipality), Hood Katuramu (PWDs Western) and Vincent Woboya (Budadiri East) as some of the MPs that approached Museveni with requests for favours.
This was after they saw the committee vice chairperson Anita Among whisper to Museveni. Anywar reportedly invited the president to attend her thanksgiving next month in Kitgum.
“She has not been attending the committee meetings. In fact, we didn’t go with her on [Wednesday]. I think her coming on the second day was purposely to see Museveni, not [to be part of] the probe,” one MP said.
Museveni reportedly accepted Anywar’s invitation. Thereafter, Katuramu walked up to the president and asked him to pay the medical bills of his (Katuramu) sick child.
“We hadn’t heard what Katuramu had asked for until [Museveni] asked [Molly Kamukama, the principal private secretary], to pick the sick child’s medical forms from the MP.
It emerged that before talking to Museveni, Katuramu had already liaised with the [presidential] aide because she said she already had the medical forms,” the source said.
According to our source, since most MPs almost whispered to Museveni, it was not possible to tell what they asked for. But Woboya said on Saturday that their issues related to the demands of their constituencies.
“Nearly every one of us told him [Museveni] something. Some of us had demands from our constituencies because that was the only opportunity for us to tell him,” Woboya said.
“I personally invited him [president] to come to Sironko; there are people willing to meet him. There are some people and NRM mobilisers who have issues to do with development and [political] mobilization in Sironko district,” Woboya added.
Until recently, the eastern district of Sironko was predominantly a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party stronghold. FDC is the leading opposition political party by parliamentary representation. Interviewed at the weekend, Anywar confirmed she invited Museveni but declined to say much.
“I have a thanksgiving [function] and I will let the country know when everything is set,” said the former FDC strong woman.
NO TRANSPORT REFUND
Asked by journalists at a press conference on Friday whether his team got transport refunds, Katuntu said the president did not offer any cash to the MPs.
“That would be an insult. We went to State House fully facilitated by Parliament. We did not go by private means; so, the need for a transport refund did not arise,” he said.
Katuntu also told journalists that before the Entebbe meeting, they agreed as a team not to bring up personal issues that would discredit the committee and its investigation.
“Ever since this probe began, we have tried to keep away from temptations and I can assure you that nothing of the sort has come up,” the Bugweri county legislator said.
Interviewed separately, Katuntu confirmed to The Observer that he indeed saw some MPs whispering to Museveni but declined to name any names.
“Because we had agreed not to engage in such [activity], when I saw them, I just looked away; so, I don’t know who they were and what they told [Museveni],” Katuntu said.
Since Museveni shook hands with each MP, that provided the perfect opportunity for many lawmakers to spill their personal issues. It is here that the president threw a jab at DP’s Florence Namayanja (Bukoto East).
“Kiwala ggwe wampona, nali nkumaze [mukalulu] naye n’ompitako no bululu butono naye ku luno tompona,” Museveni said in Luganda. Loosely translated in English, the president meant that he tried to unseat Namayanja in the last election but she scraped through with a few votes. He said she won’t survive in the next election.
Namayanja had reportedly tried to avoid to get close to Museveni but backed away when the president spoke to her in a menacing tone.
“But I am not so bad. Why should you fight me to that extent?” Namayanja reportedly retorted.
According to insider sources, Namayanja and Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East), both DP MPs, were reluctant to go to State House. DP whip Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu intervened and convinced Namayanja to attend the meeting.
“She feared that the public would misunderstand the purpose of their going to State House but that was a committee of Parliament to which she is a member,” Ssewungu told The Observer.
Sseggona, who was supposed to be the committee’s lead counsel, kept away. Katuntu performed the two roles of chairing the session and asking the questions.