Members of the 11th Parliament of Uganda, have each pocketed UGX 40 million ($ 10,958) as a quid pro quo for passing the questionable UGX 77 billion ($21.01 million) supplementary budget allocation to State House. This is a political bribe in everything but name.
The previous edition of SecretsKnown, carried an article titled: “What explains government’s fondness for Supplementary Budgets which have no impact on GDP growth?” The article questioned the allocation to State House that is so unavoidable, unforeseeable, and unabsorbable when the end of the financial year was only 40 days away.
The secret known is that Legislators had questioned the unjustifiable allocation to State House but softened their stance during an NRM caucus meeting after the party leadership promised that “there will be something for them”.
True to their word, the “something” has materialized and the NRM legislators picked it in cash at the very Office of the President on Parliamentary Building while legislators from opposition of which 40 are from the NUP party, picked their share from the residence of the Speaker of Parliament in Kololo. The leadership of NUP headed by Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu has called it “dirty money” and directed all party legislators that picked the money to return it forthwith.
There are two critical aspects to this scandal. First is the collusion between the Executive and Legislature to fleece Ugandans through the ceaseless appropriation of supplementary budgets. This is evidence of how deep the NRM government has sunk into a Kleptocracy.
Kleptocracy is a government whose corrupt leaders use political power to appropriate the wealth of the people and land they govern, typically by embezzling or misappropriating government funds at the expense of the wider population. The secret known is that Uganda under Museveni, has evolved from an economic success story to becoming a typical kleptocracy characterized among others by runaway political corruption, politically motivated land grabbing, political patronage, and cronyism.
Second, the fact that Legislators are called to pick up the cash at the Office of the President without signing anywhere to acknowledge receipt of the same, shows a plan of not leaving any trail of evidence. The opposition legislators picked their share from the residence of the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, Anita A. Among, at Kololo. The funds are alleged to have been channeled through the NRM-dominated Preliminary Commission that on the surface gives it a veneer of legality. This is an odoriferous act that points to the institutionalization of political corruption in Uganda.
Voters in Uganda are also complicit in perpetuating political corruption because they chose to ignore the good men and women who would have served them and instead voted for big spenders whose main interest in parliament is self-enrichment rather than service.
This behavior has been synonymous with previous Parliaments notably, in 2005 the 7th Parliament bagged UGX 5 million ($1,325) in exchange for removal of the provision on Presidential term limits from the constitution. The 10th Parliament also exchanged for money the removal of the age-limit provision to allow Gen. Museveni to contest again for presidency and create a potential life-presidency situation for Uganda. Money has been exchanged for various legislations including but not limited to the Sugar Bill, the Traffic and Road Safety (Amendment) Act 2018 which restricted importation of vehicles older than 15 years, and the Lotteries and Gaming Act.
These acts are indicators of commoditization of the legislative function which has the potential to further pulverize the country’s already stagnating democratization process.