Bobi Wine punches holes in Mpuuga's defence

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Former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Mpuuga, is facing intense pressure following social media expose of minutes of the meeting of the Parliamentary Commission he attended on May 6, 2022.

KAMPALA | The President of the National Unity Platform (NUP), Robert Kyagulanyi, has insisted that Mathias Mpuuga admitted to wrongdoing and apologised for corruption and abuse of office during a meeting with leaders of the party.

The NUP supremo also challenged his deputy president for Buganda region to explain to Ugandans what he gave in exchange for the Shs500m award, saying it was a matter of "negotiation" which normally involves 'give and take'.

Former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Mpuuga, is facing intense pressure following social media expose of minutes of the meeting of the Parliamentary Commission he attended on May 6, 2022.

The meeting, chaired by Speaker Anita Among, doled out nearly Shs2bn of taxpayer's money as "service reward" to Mpuuga and his three commissioners.

On Friday, Mpuuga released a terse two-page statement in which he accused NUP of targeting him for years and paying bloggers to tarnish his image and said the party had made a "cowardly call" for him to resign as a parliamentary Commissioner.

"To call any such payments corruption is the highest level of spite, double standards and deliberate misrepresentation to the public and membership of the party on a purely selfish and malicious mission," Mpuuga said.

But Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, says Mpuuga had in the meeting regretted his actions and categorically stated that in hindsight, he should never have involved himself in such and that he had requested for time to consult with and prepare his family and other stakeholders, to resign.

In a series of lengthy posts on X (formerly Twitter), Bobi Wine gave 10 reasons why "this money-heist was illegal, immoral and wrong - and totally unexpected from a person we delegated to represent our values in Parliament, and lead the charge against corruption and misuse of public resources".

However, Bobi Wine only dwelt on the legal and moral grounding of the Shs500m award in a democratic dispensation. He did address the raft of accusations Mpuuga levelled against the party's leadership.

He asked what was special about the service of Mpuuga as LoP to warrant the so-called "service award" that was never given to his predecessors.

"It defeats basic logic for anyone to say they are awarding themselves - moreover with hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money," he said. "Does that mean that every public servant should now sit in his office and allocate some money to themselves for feeling good about themselves and the work they do?"

Mpuuga and the commissioners

Quoting the Leadership Code Act, Bobi Wine said Mpuuga's attendance of a meeting that awarded him the bounty amounted to a conflict of interest.

Section 9(1) of the Leadership Code Act provides that a leader shall not participate in the deliberations of a public body or board or council or commission or committee, of which they are a member at any meeting at which any matter in which their personal interest is to be discussed.

"This law provides that where this provision is violated, the leader must cease to be a member of that public body or Commission and make good the loss caused to the public," he said.

In an interview with UBC, the director of communication at Parliament, Chris Obore, leaped to the defence of Mpuuga, saying the Nyendo-Mukungwe Division MP received justifiable and legal allowance from the Commission.

However, former LoP Morris Ogenga Latigo has said the money was illegal and that the Commission has no right to sit and agree on such payments without taking the matter to the floor.

"The commission doesn't have powers," the former Agago County legislator told Nile Post's sister station NBS. "They should have amended the law first. What they did was wrong. If you do it like that, it looks like an abuse of the office."

Bobi Wine expounded further on the illegality of the Commission's action, saying the Supreme Court in 2019 (Parliamentary Commission versus Wilson Mwesigye) held that the Parliamentary Commission does not have the power to impose any charge on the consolidated fund in the absence of a Bill or motion generated by the Executive arm of government.

"The Court went as far as saying that it is illegal for MPs to increase their salaries and emoluments without such a Bill or motion," he said.

"In this particular case, Anita Among, sat together with Mpuuga and three NRM Commissioners, and awarded themselves Shs1.7 billion off the consolidated fund in which Uganda's taxpayers keep their money."

He also said there was no law that provides for the so-called "service award" to LoP and other Parliamentary Commissioners.

"The so-called "service award" was an extreme case of greed not rooted under any law," he said. "Under what vote was this money spent? The law provides that the LoP is at the same level as a Cabinet Minister and no Cabinet Minister is entitled to a service award during or after their term of office."

In his statement, Mpuuga, who is also the NUP deputy president for Buganda region, did not speak about the detail of the Wednesday meeting at which NUP alleges that he admitted to wrongdoing and apologised.

He focused on defending his entitlement to the money and on alleged intrigue against his person from within the party.

However, Mpuuga's desperate fightback fell short of explaining how a party he claims has a "small-group-family interests" fighting him had gone had appointed him as LoP, maintains him as their deputy president in Buganda and even retained him as a Commissioner under the new LoP Joel Ssenyonyi.

Mpuuga enjoys the backing of Buganda Kingdom - where he served for nearly a decade as a youth representative and a minister - as well as the powerful Catholic Church.

It makes the fallout with the party delicately poised but where there is irrefutable evidence, he might first need to convince the two institutions that the Shs500 million was justified.

The money was paid to Mpuuga just a year into a possible five-year tenure as LoP, a time-frame that even Parliament cannot explain how it warrants a service award and the particulars of the deeds that merit such.

Bobi Wine said the meeting that passed these "illegal benefits" sat on May 6, 2022, shortly after Francis Zaake was "illegally pushed out" of the Commission on March 10, 2022.

Zaake was not considered for the award, a decision Bobi Wine says Mpuuga had explained as "we were waiting for the outcome of the court case Zaake filed".

"The award was supposed to be given regardless of length of tenure," charged Bobi Wine, who stressed that in 2017, Mpuuga had joined Ugandans in collectively and unequivocally condemning President Museveni's Shs6bn 'handshake' to 42 government officials who participated in an arbitration in London.

The regime then described it as a service award to those officials, and claimed the reason was because they saved the government more than Shs2.4 trillion.

A select Committee of Parliament instituted to probe the 'handshake' had concluded that the officials should refund the money because it was irregular.

"Parliament directed the officials to refund the money and called on the IGG to investigate the heist," Bobi Wine said.

"So, why was it right for us to attack regime officials for this irregular payment even when they tried to justify it, and not now when there is no single justification whatsoever?"

He said as the party that nominated Mpuuga to the position of LeoP, NUP should have been consulted on the so-called "service award".

But he himself had learnt about the matter on social media.

"I couldn't believe that my Deputy President would get involved in a matter of this gravity and not say anything about it - not least, to me. When asked why he didn't discuss this with the Party (or at least the president), he said it was a matter of personal finance! Really?"

The NUP supremo maintained that the Shs500m award is an "extreme act of corruption" which Mpuuga admitted initially and apologised for.

He said no matter how many heavy words are used to justify it, the moral thing for Mpuuga is to apologise to the nation and step down from the Parliamentary Commission.

"That remains his choice," he added.

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