Parliament Exhibition: Is it about accountability or witch-hunt?

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The past three weeks have not been the best for the second most important institution in nation building.

A group of people, under the Agora Discourse initiated what was termed as the Parliament Exhibition where a number of stories were brought to the light of how allegedly, money was misused by the institution.

The exhibition which started off with the Speaker, Anita Among saw many other senior leaders, including the immediate former Leader of the Opposition in Parliament labeled corrupt and fraudulent after the institution’s highest decision making organ, the Parliamentary Commission chose to offer a Service Award of up to Ugx 500 million for a role he played overseeing government programs in the past two and a half years he served in the same position.

As a number of people moved to weigh in, defend and shade light on the issues being raised, staff at Parliament, including the Director of Communication and Public Affairs, Chris Obore was brought into the spotlight.

This time, not corruption, but drawing allegedly large sums of money for which, the exhibitors said, would be taken to the Speaker of Parliament for personal use.

Several claims on a number of staff, including the Commissioners, Directors and other staff, especially those in the Directorate of Public Affairs.

On reexamining issues raised by the exhibition, it has been established that the deliberations of money to the different staff within the house were legal and for the intended activities as budgeted for the work plans.

For instance, in several of the Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility budgets, the person in charge of a given activity requests for funding through the directorate of finance and their line supervisors.

Corporate Social Responsibility is a government code that runs in high officers of government. According to details from the National Budget, several high officers in government have a budget for such activity. For instance, the Vice President holds a budget of up to Ugx 4.2 billion while the President holds such Budget at Ugx 77 billion.

Other high offices with such budgets include the Prime Minister with up to Ugx 3.7 billion, Chief Whip – Ugx 1.8 billion, Deputy Speaker at Ugx 1.8 billion and the National Council of Sports at Ugx 2 billion.

The money is later disbursed on to the person’s account to handle the activity expeditiously and asked to account for the money, with evidence of the completion of the activities as per the Public Finance Management Act.

The law states that an accounting officer shall be responsible for authorizing any commitment made by a vote, and control the resources received, held, or disposed of by or on account of a vote.

“In exercise of the duties under this Act, an Accounting Officer shall, in respect of all resources and transactions of a vote, put in place effective systems of risk management, internal control, and internal audit.”

The Act also indicates that where an accounting officer can delegate the function or responsibility “of accounting officer specified in this act to a public officer under control of the accounting officer.”

It is upon such background that such money has on several occasions, been deliberated to the different staff under his control, to “effectively manage activities on his behalf, supposed to be carried on by Parliament,” says one of the officers in the office of the Chief Accounting Officer of Parliament.

However, the Accounting Officer remains with the resolute powers to direct and account for such funds to meet their intended objective.

For instance, media reports reported that more than USD 4 million (About Ugx 15.6 billion) was deliberated on the different accounts of staff at Parliament in the last nine months.

This website however verified that all staff who received the money was used for the intended activities and accountabilities submitted to the authorities and later verified and approved.

A similar system has severally been used by District Local Governments across the country, Ministries, and MDAs including the office of the Prime Minister where larger sums of money have been disbursed to individual accounts for planned activities and later accounted for by the different officers.

The Auditor General also investigated the matters and confirmed that the spending was legal and well accounted for by the Parliament of Uganda. Sources at Parliament have however questioned the authenticity of the documentation being shared by the initiators of the Parliament Exhibition which they say lacks basis.

“Such documentation has must always be stamped and certified. The documents they share lack authenticity manifests on them,” the source said.

With a budget of up to Ugx 900 billion, the Parliament Exhibition handled only a handful of less than Ugx 13.5 billion managed by the office of the Speaker and that of the Public Affairs, leaving the rest of the departments of the house not held accountable.

Why staff at Parliament? Is it a witch-hunt?

Highly placed sources amongst the organizers of the Exhibition have intimated to this website that the exhibition targeted the highest office in Parliament.

Amongst them, were the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Clerk to Parliament, and that of the Leader of the Opposition.

Well as deliberations in the office of the Speaker, Clerk, and the Leader of the Opposition were brought into the spotlight, it has been established that the team failed to get information from the office of the Deputy Speaker.

It has also been established that the leader of the Parliamentary Exhibition, Ms. Agather Atuhaire holds a conflict of interest after the father of his child, Robinson Kaweesa chose early retirement after he confessed to breaching the confidentiality oath. He had been pardoned from interdiction upon admission of guilt.

He is said to have broken the confidentiality oath when he shared confidential information about the contracts committee of Parliament during Late Speaker Jacob Oulanyah’s reign.

Also, Atuhaire could be presumably angry after she failed to get a job in the August House when she applied a few years ago to become the Senior Press Secretary for one of the Principals in Parliament.

“With Agather Atuhaire leading the exhibition and with the alleged bias, it leaves questions lingering on whether it is about public accountability or, it is about the anger a zeal of one person trying to satisfy the quench of failing to get a job at Parliament and that of the husband,” says one of the MPs who asked not to be named for fear of being attacked by tweeps.

Upon completion of the maligning campaign, Ronald Egesa Leonard, one of the exhibitors, on March 12 wrote to the Clerk to Parliament seeking information “relating to financial operations of some staff of and the institution of Parliament of Uganda.”

Amongst the staff included Mr. Obore Chris Ariko, Adilo Daniel, and Okwi Emmanuel Emuran. Also, requested is a certified copy of all institutions, organizations, and/or person’s that have received funds from the office of the Speaker, the office of the Deputy Speaker, and the Institution of Parliament indicating the date of transaction, the amount disbursed, mode of disbursement and the form of acknowledgment from the recipients. Others in the spotlight include Ranny Ismail who also works in Public Affairs department.

“See, this is what they ought to have first done instead of the first character assassinating the Institution of Parliament and later coming asking for information. Are they going to clear what they said prior?” A source at Parliament told wondered.

On the periphery, the exhibition also turned tribal, naming several people from the Teso sub-region as the only beneficiaries of the Parliamentary jobs, portraying tribalism. Well as there is a number of employees from the Teso region, the highest number of staff at Parliament are not from the area.

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