It is no longer a secret that Parliament quietly allocated itself Shs 10bn, from the COVID-19 supplementary budget allegedly to facilitate MPs to join national activities in the fight against the pandemic.
The Civil Division of High Court on Tuesday stayed the release of 10BN to MPs until 29th April, 2020, when the application challenging the release of funds will be heard.
However, we can authoritatively report that the money has been wired directly to personal bank accounts of each MP despite a High Court ruling ordering a stay of the release. But what played behind the scenes?
Fireworks in cabinet as Museveni okays the funds
In a heat cabinet meeting which sat at State House Entebbe on Monday, President Yoweri Museveni managed to convince a number of Ministers who were lobbying him to block the 10 billion shillings allocated to the Parliamentary Commission for MPs to join the fight against COVID 19.
A source that attended the meeting but preferred anonymity, told this website that Museveni supported the giving MPs money on grounds that it will finally be given to ordinary Ugandans.
President Museveni reasoned the unlike the thieves in Kampala, MPs will share the 20 million with their voters, which is a good thing. He said once the voters learn that MPs have money, they will claim for a share of it.
A source intimated that senior ministers including PM Ruhakana Rugunda and Sam Kutesa who initially wanted the money returned to the treasury, were later convinced and agreed to release the money.
The rush to beat a court ruling
With cabinet approval, the proponents of the idea to have the money released to MPs faced another huddle -An application for an injunction to block the release filed in the High Court by Hon. Gerald Karuhanga and Hon. Tony Oudur.
It was a race against time. The Government Chief Whip Hon. Ruth Nankabirwa and the Parliamentary Commission had to move fast lest the applicants secure a court order before the funds are released.
After a brief meeting at parliament, a Commissioner (Names withheld) was sent to Bank of Uganda (BOU) to ensure fast processing of the funds. The commissioner met the Accountant General BOU at 10:30 on Tuesday, and the necessary paperwork was submitted.
The funds (20M each) were then wired to individual bank accounts of MPs through Cairo Bank, ABSA, and Centenary Bank. This process will be finalize by Wednesday mid-day according to sources.
A senior lawyer Counsel Anthony Wameli says in such circumstances, it may not be easy for court or any other institution to compel MPs to return the money since they are not party to the case in court. Wameli says MPs can spend the money for now.
However, Wameli says if court rules (in the main suit that challenges legality of the process through which money is released) that the process was null and void, the MPs will have to cough the money.
Another factor is that influential figures in the opposition have also expressed support for the release of funds to MPs despite public criticism over the matter.
Oposition MPs including the opposition Chief Whip Hon. Betty Aol Achan and Kira Municipality MP, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda have defended the money saying they will use it to procure food for their constituents who are starving as a result of the government measure to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Since the leadership of the opposition in parliament support the release, it creates a balance and counterbalance against the hostility the release had created in ordinary citizens.
But the parliamentary commission maintains that such criticism is misguided since 10 billion accounts for less than 10% of the 932 billion shillings supplementary budget passed by parliament on 7th April.
Now that they have the money, it all goes down to how the MPs will utilize the 20 million and what impact the money will make in reversing the effects of coronavirus.