The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has allowed Members of Parliament to spend the money that was wired to their accounts, to enable them to participate in activities aimed at containing Coronavirus Disease- COVID-19.
The parliamentary commission received an allocation of 10 billion Shillings as part of a supplementary budget to facilitate activities to control the spread of coronavirus disease. From this allocation, each of the legislators received 20 million Shillings, raising controversy on the exact role that the MPs were going to play when the country is on lockdown.
Early this week, court issued an order stopping the parliamentary commission from disbursing the money, following an application by Ntungamo Municipality Member of Parliament, Gerald Karuhanga and the Erute South MP, Jonathan Odur. However, the commission had already transferred the money, by the time the order was issued.
Kadaga told parliament this afternoon that a meeting held with President Yoweri Museveni and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda on Wednesday discussed how best activities of parliament can be incorporated with those being implemented by government structures.
Kadaga said that henceforth, MPs will join and be incorporated into the respective district COVID-19 task forces as members. She said that the structure and leadership of the district shall remain as is and that MPs representing special interest groups will be absorbed in the National Task Force where interventions will be coordinated.
Kadaga said that MPs will spend the 20 million Shillings advanced to them by the Parliamentary Commission only on interventions meant to support the National response in their respective districts. She said that since the country’s districts are not homogenous with needs differing, each district will determine how best to utilize the funds.
She added that accountability for the money shall be made to the Clerk to Parliament and copied to the Chief Administrative Officer of the districts. She, however, said that MPs shall adhere strictly to the government guidelines on COVID-19 pandemic and shall not personally get involved in the distribution of food or materials.
Earlier, Kadaga accused the Attorney General William Byaruhanga of encouraging the Judiciary to overrun parliament. This after Byaruhanga told Parliament that failure to obey a court order stopping the disbursement of the money exposes one to contempt of court and that the MPs who spent the money after the April 21 when the court order was issued would be held to be in contempt.
According to the court order issued by Justice Esta Nambayo, the MPs are not supposed to use the money even though they receive it until the matter is decided upon by the court on April 29, 2020.
But Kadaga said that the status
quo upon which the court ruled was that the money had already been sent by the Parliamentary
Commission and that this status quo should be maintained. She added that the MPs were not a party to the suit and the court
had no business to interfere with their accounts. The Attorney General insisted
that the court is entitled to make their order.