Kampala – Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has told members of parliament that they are free to spend the 20m/- deposited on their bank accounts, for Covid related issues in their districts.
Kadaga’s communication during Thursday’s plenary, follows AG William Byaruhanga’s guidance on the same matter where he warned any MP who spends the shs 20m after April 21, when court stayed the release, would be doing so in contempt of court.
Court halted the payment until April 29, following a petition by Erute South MP Jonathan Odur and his Ntungamo counterpart Gerald Karuhanga seeking the High Court to quash the decision by Parliament to allocate itself the Shs10b. They say the money was illegally appropriated because it had not been included in the supplementary budget.
However, Kadaga reasoned by saying, the cash was wired on 17th April while the suit was filed on 21st April. This she said meant that the judgement was not on MPs’ bank accounts, and touching of MPs bank accounts should not be part of the prayers in court since none of them were party to the suit.
She said that the money would be used to support MPs in managing the coronavirus response in their constituencies.
“An MP can send cash to as many as 100,000 voters via mobile money platforms and avail the Clerk with proof of the transactions. This was part of my guidelines,” Kadaga said.
“The Supplementary Budget is not passed in isolation; it is a whole. Going by logic, the judge is indirectly ordering whoever got part of the 302bn/- Supplementary Budget (President’s Office, Health Ministry, Judiciary, etc), not to expend any shilling from thereof,” the speaker said.
This situation has not only set Parliament and the Judiciary on a collision course but the public as well.
On Thursday, Nuwagaba Moses, the Deputy Resident District Commissioner for Kisoro, posted on his facebook page saying the speaker was misdirecting herself and parliament.
“A court injunction is a status quo holder. It can only be stayed or set aside by court not a meeting between the Speaker and other government leaders no matter how senior they are,” Nuwagaba said.
He argued that the purpose of an injunction is to maintain the status quo until the main application is determined by court.
“This is a matter of public finance and thus of public importance. The speaker cannot rely on the political doctrine theory of separation of powers and non-interference,” he added.
He further argued that court should be allowed to exercise it’s unfettered discretion to determine whether there is convergence between the said 10bn expenditure and public priorities in the ongoing crisis.
“You can’t be a speaker who violates the law. Plus, the new maneuver to integrate MPs in their respective district taskforces is a malfide act (an act intended to defeat the purpose of the law),” he said.
“How can funds obtained from parliament be accounted for in the districts? How can you have MPs activities planned at the district taskforce but separately funded from the center?” he asked.
The Speaker however contends that under parliament’s rules of procedure, any MP who loses a motion against a majority is obliged to stand up in the House and complain. But not to rush to court to overturn Parliament’s majority vote.
“The MPs who rushed to court, flouted our rules,” Kadaga said.