Anti-graft campaigners ask Mpuuga, Commissioners to resign

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Anti-graft campaigners ask Mpuuga, Commissioners to resign
Mpuuga and the commssioners

Mpuuga yesterday released a statement in which he vowed not to step down and accused the party of targeted smear campaign against his person.

KAMPALA | Former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP) Mathias Mpuuga has dominated headlines this week for bad reasons.

This followed a document dated May 6, 2022, which implicated him alongside other Parliamentary Commissioners in awarding themselves controversial huge sums of tax-payers’ money on the pretext of “Service Awards”.

The document indicates that the Commission allocated Shs500 million for LoP and Shs400m for each of the backbench commissioners Solomon Silwany (Bukooli County - NRM), Esther Afoyochan (Zombo District Woman - NRM), and Prossy Mbabazi (Rubanda District Woman - NRM).

Our efforts to have the implicated commissioners’ say on the matter have been futile as they could not answer repeated calls.

On Thursday, the National Unity Platform (NUP) released an unsigned statement that Mpuuga, who is the deputy president for Buganda region, had admitted wrongdoing.

Speaking to the Nile Post, political and anti-corruption activists said it is less likely that the commissioners in question will step down.

The party asked Mpuuga to immediately step down from his new role as a backbench Parliamentary Commissioner.

But Mpuuga yesterday released a statement in which he vowed not to step down and accused the party of targeted smear campaign against his person.

Also read: To call my Shs500m reward corruption is the highest level of spite, defiant Mpuuga says

Sorry not enough

Speaking to this reporter, Marion Agaba, the executive director of Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, said sorry is not enough and called for more action from Mpuuga.

“That’s not enough (apologizing). Mpuuga should also refund that money because I don’t really think it was given to him in good faith. Secondly, he took part in a decision where he was the beneficiary,” Agaba said.

“He has been demanding accountability from fellow Members of Parliament. So, I think he should live by that standard and resign as a commissioner and also refund the money. I think that will be good.

"And also, I think that will create a climate or a culture of taking responsibility which is very rare. Him taking responsibility is good but not enough and so we need more action.”

Good governance activist, Agather Atuhaire welcomed the decision by Mpuuga to own up his mistake, noting that by doing so, it clearly indicates that the country still has a few politicians that have a sense of shame.

“We are used to them being so shameless and continuing with their lives and their looting even when news like this come to light," Atuhaire told this reporter.

"I commend Mpuuga for not just singing the same song they sing that these are malicious attacks and owning up. I hope he does the honourable thing and actually resigns.”

However, in the wake of Mpuuga owning up to his mistakes, Atuhaire does not see the other commissioners implicated in the cash bonanza doing the same.

“Their party NRM is synonymous with corruption and shamelessness. Unless the appointing authority disappoints them which I also don’t see happening but they can surprise us,” Atuhaire noted.

On her part, anti-corruption campaigner Cissy Kagaba says she is not surprised by the current developments at Parliament because looting taxpayers’ money has become the order of the day there.

She says most of the legislators whether from NRM, NUP or other opposition parties look at Parliament as a cash cow, adding that Mpuuga’s incident should not come as a surprise.

“I don’t want to look at Mpuuga only. This thing has been happening for a long time," Kagaba said.

"They have been receiving unexplained money for many years and that’s why I don’t want to entirely look at Mpuuga but the whole opposition. All parties whether NUP are doing the same thing. Of course there are few opposition members who have stood a test of time.”

Kagaba adds that there is need to interrogate the entire system and the previous commissioners that have held offices before Mpuuga.

Appearing on NBS Television, Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju said that whereas commissioners deserved to be awarded allowances, the manner in which the allocation was conducted is questionable.

“Motions to vary MPs allowances used to be a motion in Parliament. The Seventh Parliament moved away from that..Now, every allowance to the MP looks like a bribery or a connivance because of the way it is done," Ssemujju said.

"That’s why I prefer the ordinary way where a motion was moved in Parliament, it was done in the view of the camera.”

Will they resign?

Amidst the storm, it remains unclear if Mpuuga and his docket of commissioners will heed to calls to step down from their positions.

However, Agaba, does not see that happening because he believes the country does not have a culture of leaders taking responsibility.

“If we had that culture, the Speaker and other government leaders implicated in stealing of Karamoja iron sheets would have stepped down by now. We have witnessed many scandals and we have seen very few resignations in this country. So, I don’t expect Mpuuga or the other commissioners to step down or refund the money.” Agaba says.

Kagaba, holds the same opinion with Agaba, and says the country has set a precedent where even ministers implicated in grand corruption scandals have walked freely and not stepped down.

“Mpuuga will not step down. Also, I don’t see the other commissioners resigning. Some will say they can only be fired by the appointing authority. They will not step down. If any of them steps down, it will be a miracle,” Kagaba says.

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