Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja yesterday spoke extensively about the iron sheets scandal, distancing her office from the iron sheets that were allegedly diverted from Karamoja by the area minister Mary Goretti Kitutu.
Nabbanja while appearing on NBS TV’s Barometer show said that the matter involving Minister Kitutu should be treated as an independent matter worth investigating.
Nabbanja said that bundling up issues would confuse the masses because there has been an initial distribution of iron sheets in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) before, which is a transparent and usual process.
“The Minister should be investigated, and the office of the Prime Minister will cooperate. That is a completely different matter and I hope we understand it better,” Nabbanja said.
She insists that while there is a group of officials that have received iron sheets before, those are not the same iron sheets that were meant for Karamoja.
“It is true the Vice President took iron sheets, aren’t there vulnerable people in Katakwi? I took iron sheets to Kakumiro, are there no vulnerable people in Kakumiro? People are receiving these iron sheets, so let us investigate those that have not reached the people,” she said.
Nabbanja refuted claims that she used iron sheets to roof her hotel in Kakumiro.
“Saying I used government iron sheets on my hotels isn’t right. I built my first hotel in 2003 and another in 2009,” she said.
According to Nabbanja, the iron sheets have been coming from different donors and funders, and different officials have been asking for them so as to support their vulnerable communities.
“People have been taking iron sheets for a long time, in a transparent process through proper assessment, it is not a new thing. We have been distributing iron sheets for quite long. We should not bundle these to the Karamoja issue,” she said.
Last week, a security operation arrested relatives of Minister Mary Goretti Kitutu after they were found in possession of relief items meant for the vulnerable in the Karamoja region.
On January 12 2023, Kitutu sent a memo to the OPM asking for a release of 12,200 iron sheets to her office.
The iron sheets were released to her office and through her private assistant, a distribution of the iron sheets ensued as per a list of beneficiaries she had provided.
The beneficiaries included Ministers: Jacob Oboth Oboth, Rebbeca Kadaga, Moriku Kaducu, Matia Kasaijja, Rukia Isanga Nakadama, and Amos Lugolobi among others.
Also, sources alleged that the speaker of Parliament, Anita Among, Vice President Jessica Alupo as well as Prime Minister Nabbanja also received iron sheets.
Nabbanja confirms that indeed they received iron sheets but not the ones meant for Karamoja.
In a February 17, 2023 statement, Nabbanja noted that the iron sheets that were given to other areas of Uganda were procured by respective ministries for specific responses, including disasters.
Also, the speaker Anita Among in response has directed the presidential affairs committee to investigate the alleged mismanagement of relief items in the ministry for Karamoja Affairs.
The directive followed a petition by Members of Parliament (MPs) from the Karamoja Sub-region to the Speaker, asking for a forensic audit on both the procurement and distribution of relief items.
Meanwhile, in the last week, Ministers Kasaijja, Oboth Oboth, Hamson Obua and Speaker Anita Among have donated iron sheets to schools and other recipients.
Asked why the minister was donating iron sheets at such a time when they have been accused, Nabbanja said she is not aware of their reasons.
“I do not know,” she said.
Bugiri Municipality Member of Parliament Asuman Basalirwa says that there should be a thorough investigation into the matter, to identify how the said ministers and officials got information that there were iron sheets for distribution and why others were not informed.
Minister Kasaijja in his defence maintains that he was called for the iron sheets through his political aide by someone he can not remember.
“We were told to go and collect iron sheets from OPM. I can not remember who gave them to us,” Kasaijja said.