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How opposition MPs used age limit cash

Manjiya MP John Baptist Nambeshe finds himself thrust into unwelcome spotlight for quietly withdrawing the Shs 29 million he publicly handed over to a district hospital to purchase medical equipment.

The money was his share of the Shs 13 billion given to all MPs to consult local constituents on the controversial Constitution Amendment (No 2) Bill 2017, which seeks to scrap the constitutional age cap of 35 and 75 years for presidential candidates.

Nambeshe recently handed over the money at a public rally to Emmanuel Bululu, the human resource officer of Bududa hospital. Bululu was delegated by his medical superintendent to pick the money meant to purchase a CBC blood count machine, an X-ray and other equipment for the hospital.

Hours later Nambeshe, however, withdrew the money causing the arrest of Bululu. Interviewed, Nambeshe said he withdrew the money to protect it against misappropriation.

Manjiya MP John Baptist Nambeshe

According to the vocal MP, district officials led by the Bududa chief administrative officer (CAO), Fredrick Ssemogerere and Patrick Kuloba Meru, the secretary social services, reportedly planned to grab the money.

Nambeshe told The Observer by telephone on Saturday, that he received information that the duo planned to divert the money to finance other activities.

On October 31, Meru wrote to the medical superintendent of Bududa hospital, demanding receipts for the money and a work plan for the funds. Bululu was arrested days later, after the hospital administration said it had not received the money.

In a letter dated November 1 to the secretary, social services, Dr Sylvia Enid Ntegeka, the senior medical officer at Bududa hospital said she had not received the Shs 29 million from Nambeshe. Bululu, who has since been released on police bond, said the money was retrieved from him at the urging of Nambeshe.

“The MP said he had created a committee to oversee his proposed project and physically purchase the CBC blood count machine and other hospital equipment that could later be commissioned by the MP himself citing security reasons and the unfriendly situations he has put us in,” Bululu said in his November 1 letter to the CAO.

The committee comprises Michael Musinye (chairman), Richard Matanga, Abbas Wanzala, Rogers Wambi and Mande.

Suwedi Manshur, the police spokesperson for Elgon region, told The Observer at the weekend that Nambeshe has been summoned to explain the circumstances under which he publicly donated the money and later withdrew it.

He further said that Bululu was released but investigations are currently underway. The CAO, Ssemogerere, was also questioned.

“We received a complaint from the district officials about the money which should have been ideally received by the CAO but after four days, he complained that the money had not been received. He [Bululu] is not supposed to have picked that money,” Manshur said in a phone interview.

Ssemogerere, however, denied lodging a complaint against Bululu. Nambeshe, insisted that he cannot give the money to district officials because they would swindle it.

The committee has already purchased the CBC blood count machine and X-ray machine, which Nambeshe said will be commissioned later this week. Other MPs At least 12 opposition legislators have returned the Shs 29 million, refusing to accept what they branded a bribe from President Yoweri Museveni to sway them to support the age limit bill.

The lawmakers who have since returned the cash include the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Winnie Kiiza (Kasese Woman), Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality), Roland Kaginda (Rukungiri Municipality), William Nzoghu (Busongora North), Anna Adeke (National Female Youth) and Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri).

Some opposition MPs, however, have spent the money. Kapelebyong MP, Julius Ocen (Independent) and shadow minister for Health bought 10 ox-ploughs and 20 oxen for primary schools in his constituency.

He said the oxen and ploughs would help schools produce enough food for learners. Former Leader of Opposition and Agago North MP, Prof Ogenga Latigo said on Friday, “I don’t know where the position to return the money came from. I think those were individual decisions.”

“If an individual within the opposition returns the money, another individual also has a right not to return it…For me, I think the biggest problem we have within the opposition is we spend time fighting over non-issues. If you decide to return or not return the money, no problem but if you abuse the money, that is an issue,” Latigo said.

Latigo gave Shs 500,000 to each of the parishes in his constituency, while the rest was spent on fuel, organizing venues and refreshments.

Mary Babirye Kabanda (Masaka Woman, DP) bought 50 plastic chairs for each village in the district to be used during village meetings.

Interviewed at the weekend for a comment, Chris Obore, the director of Communications and Public Affair at parliament, said the money is facilitation for MPs and voters should ask for political accountability.

“Tracking each MP to know whether they have consulted or not will be expensive. The voters should do so,” Obore said.

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© 2016 Observer Media Ltd