As the constituency consultations on the age limit bill come to a dramatic close, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Winnie Kiiza (also Kasese Woman MP) talks about the Shs 29 million facilitation kitty and the opposition members who pocketed the cash.
She says they retained the money in defiance of their political parties. MPs had two weeks to consult from October 25 to November 8. Josephine Namuloki interviewed her at the weekend:-
Your views about the money…
We have been doing this consultation without additional money; so, when additional money comes with the purpose of softening our hearts so that we can enable President Museveni to die in the chair, our conscience says no; one hand cannot say no don’t touch it while the other hand is touching the money.
So everything we shall not touch; their money we shall not touch, the Constitution we shall not touch specifically Article 102(b).
But some of your colleagues in the opposition argue that you cannot guarantee the money will return to Ugandans.
We know that at some point the auditor general will audit these books. The advantage is that we are the ones who are manning the accountability committees. We shall ensure through our accountability committees that accountability is given.
I have my receipt, other members have their receipts. Even those who have done electronic fund transfers have their receipts for the transfers.
First of all we don’t know where it came from. So, the Parliamentary Commission will tell us how they allocated this money to MPs. When you received it, on which account did you put it? When you put it on that account, where did it go?
Before parliament gave us that illegal money… we told you those of us in the opposition that we will find it hard to take that money. When the money came, some of us were not around in Kampala to interface with journalists.
A few members returned the money, subsequently, I also did the same. On that day I told you, many of our members were still upcountry consulting and that when they come back, they would be addressing the media.
We still believe that this money is not good money; it was intended to compromise the integrity of MPs for the sole purpose of passing article 102(b) which intends to create a life presidency in this country.
But the money was to facilitate consultation on the age limit bill.
Isn’t the money they give us monthly specifically for consultations? You know when they give me fuel to go to my constituency, do they expect me to go and sleep? They expect me to go and talk to my people about the different issues that are before parliament and this was not an exception.
As members of parliament, we are not complaining because monthly government pays us; so, there was no need for additional funds.
Was it the position of the entire opposition that members return the money?
Some of those questions we shall answer when we have officially opened parliament. There are some individuals who think that if these people have robbed Ugandans and they are giving us this busamambiro [hand-outs], let us take it back to Ugandans...
Then there are those of us who say I will not have it [money] on me because I believe it is immoral to have that money when I am not going to vote with them.
Are there any sanctions for not rejecting the money?
We are not going to lay penalties on any individual, let each member use their conscience. What does your conscience tell you?
If a thief steals and you also come and steal from them, are you different from them? So, each member will give reasons why they think either it is clean or it is not clean.
The DP is on record for sponsoring an announcement. The FDC certainly said we are not going to take this money. Now if they are defying their political parties… It goes to the individual person’s moral character and conduct. That is why I am saying some individuals will be morally and [by principle] responsible for their actions.
When the media was asking, the chorus answer was: we shall not take it. Now, if individuals have decided to take the money, I think the responsibility goes back to an individual because the money did not come to the office of the leader of opposition; that is why they will be personally held liable. As a leader, I have played my part.
Some Ugandans think you are well off and you do not mind about their plight especially those in the countryside with lots of challenges.
When we return this money, it is not that we are so rich or we don’t have needs. We have needs but we have our priorities clear. Even when you have needs, you don’t rob the nation just to satisfy your personal interests.
As we speak now, the medical doctors are on strike. Our people are dying in hospitals. All the doctors need is something to keep them moving while they do their work; all they need is the equipment they can use in the hospitals.
But as I speak, Kampala minister Beti Kamya and Hon Charles Bakkabulindi (sports state minister) were dishing out money at the Cricket Oval, buying people to support the removal of presidential age limits.
MPs have been given double pay for what they have not done. They received their salaries; two days after receiving their salaries, they got a top-up.
I don’t know what to call it, maybe a handshake or heart softener; meanwhile, the critical areas, the critical ministries cannot service their work to meet the demands of this country.
Are our priorities in keeping Museveni in office? Are our priorities in ensuring that Mr Museveni and his family are okay at the expense of Ugandans?
While you appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee on Thursday, Hon Francis Mwijukye said the opposition should stick to in-door consultations like your NRM counterparts because of a police ban on rallies.
At every rally we are calling, they are sending police officers to tear-gas us, to beat us and even fire live ammunition at us. We think government does not want us to consult yet they are allowing NRM MPs to consult and are giving them protection.
Instead of giving us protection, they are disbanding our rallies. Many of those rallies they were disrupting we had given them prior notice.
It was actually the police causing the disorder and we are really pissed off. We are pissed off by the actions of the police. We are taking them to court and people will answer individually.
Have you completed your consultations?
Those on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee are still consulting. For us, we believe that consultations will continue until the bill comes back to parliament. Nobody is going to stop us from continuous consultations and we are going ahead with our consultations, individually and as a group.
As long as the committee is still handling the matter, there is nobody who will stop Ugandans from consulting on this matter.
The deadline will be after we have handled the matter. It is a matter that touches the governance of this country, freedom of Ugandans, their rights. No amount of intimidation will stop us from consulting our people.
But some Ugandans are okay with what the president has done.
The advice we have been giving the president is that the money he splashes all over should be used to improve services in the health sector. We have been telling him that his priorities are not aligned to the needs of the society.
Things that needed serious attention are being neglected. Is our leader still interested in the welfare of this society or the welfare of his family?
Our advice has been that can we ensure the priorities of this country target the health subsector, agriculture subsector, education, because we know these are sectors that will help everybody.
Stop Kamya from dishing out money at Lugogo; put it together and sort out the doctors. I got surprised that the minister of foreign affairs, Sam Kutesa, came to parliament saying you know, as a country we need doctors, neurosurgeons who can go to the Middle East.
Meanwhile, as a country we are short of doctors but we can afford to export them and of course our doctors were ready to go. They want our doctors to feed on kikomando (chapatti and beans snack).
The president himself as he orders doctors to go back to work or face the disciplinary action, promised them a minimum wage of Shs 5 million, which he has not paid. When he sends away these doctors his soldiers will not treat the patients.
You know he is fond of saying my army will handle. This time there is no gun that will treat bilharzia, no gun that will treat the bones. The gun will not clear the sewage that is overflowing in Kiruddu referral hospital. They can masquerade around the primary schools; appear to be teaching but they cannot handle.
As they give MPs double pay, they should know that people are dying in Mulago hospital and that is the reason why I am thanking those MPs who are saying Mr President, if you thought you are doing us a favour by giving us this money, we decline the favour and request that you redistribute it or redirect it to the health subsector so that our people can be attended to.