On January 7, chief opposition whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda wrote to the speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga suggesting a solution to an increasingly tense standoff between her and the opposition FDC leadership.
Kadaga and the FDC leaders are rowing over a change of leadership of the Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises Committee (Cosase), which is probing the irregular closure of seven commercial banks by Bank of Uganda.
The bickering stems from a December 18, 2018 letter, the speaker wrote to the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP) Betty Aol Ocan, asking the opposition leadership to allow the current Cosase leadership to stay put until February 20.
Cosase is one of the four accountability committees in parliament whose leadership is largely a preserve of the dominant opposition party in parliament as per Rule 157(7). Currently, the two-and-half years’ tenure of the committee chairman Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu and his deputy Bukedea Woman MP Anita Among expires on January 13.
FDC President Patrick Oboi Amuriat appointed Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa to replace Katuntu as the new committee chair and Lubaga North MP Moses Kasibante as his deputy. But Kadaga argues that since the committee is at a critical stage of the Bank of Uganda probe, the new appointed leaders should wait until the outgoing leaders have concluded their investigation.
“Cosase is winding up on the Bank of Uganda investigation; we expect them to write a report and hand it over to the House before they move, my request is not to say that we shall not have changes, but changes will come after they have finished the report,” Kadaga told journalists on January 3.
Kadaga’s remarks followed loud protests from FDC leaders who view her call for an extension of the current committee leadership as a ploy to block Munyagwa from assuming leadership.
In the midst of the storm, Ssemujju wrote suggesting that he intended to move Katuntu from Cosase to the Rules, Privileges and Discipline committee, which he says has originally been constituted by senior lawyers of Katuntu’s stature.
But with Kadaga leaning on her authority as the head of parliament and, therefore, the custodian of the Rules of Procedure, Ssemujju, to avoid a clash, suggested a win-win alternative.
He suggested that parliament invokes Rule 206 of its Rules of Procedure to end the current standoff. The Kira Municipality legislator told Kadaga that the committee leadership should first be properly constituted and then Katuntu be co-opted as a member of the committee under sub-rule 1 of the Rule, for purposes of concluding the probe.
“I am making an undertaking that I will instruct Munyagwa to co-opt Katuntu, and leave him to conclude the Bank of Uganda investigation. That is the easiest and lawful way this can be handled; otherwise, parliament risks having whatever findings and recommendations that will come in the report being challenged in court,” Ssemujju told The Observer.
In her January 3 address to the press, Kadaga said that while the tenure of all the 11 standing committees of parliament expires on January 13, the Cosase leadership will remain till the end of February largely to conclude the probe.
Ssemujju, however, invited Kadaga to address herself to Rule 155 and Rule 157. Like Ssemujju, Kasibante also argued that the rules needed to be respected.
“A committee cannot conclude all business; it will become a problem if we set the wrong example. When the term of the committee expires, then the leadership should expire, we have Rules that dictate so,” Kasibante said.
But since Rule 157(8) requires the speaker to first announce in parliament the designated members before they can assume their respective membership or offices, Kadaga may still use this sub-rule to delay Munyagwa’s assumption of the committee leadership.
Last week, Munyagwa recorded a video in India which he circulated to journalists expressing his disappointment at what he claims to be a deliberate plan to fail him.
“I am a Ugandan with a right to serve my country, Katuntu is not the first chairman of Cosase; [FDC President Patrick Oboi] Amuriat was chairman [of the committee], he left at the expiry of his term and he was replaced by Ssemujju and Katuntu replaced Ssemujju,” Munyagwa said.
Munyagwa claimed that there was a lot behind the Bank of Uganda investigation, which he threatened to reveal to the world once he gets clearance from the FDC party leadership.
“What is behind Bank of Uganda, I know; I know what has been going on and the world will know what you have not known,” Munyagwa said, adding, “Is it the first investigation on Bank of Uganda? What happened to the golden pens which were bought at whopping sums? Where is the report? You open up the investigation, you excite the public and there is no report.”
The current probe was undertaken after a special audit by the auditor general released last August accused Bank of Uganda of irregularly closing seven commercial banks between 1993 and 2016.
The banks in question are, Tteefe Trust Bank, International Credit Bank, Co-operative Bank, Greenland Bank, Global Trust Bank, National Bank of Commerce and Crane Bank. Katuntu’s deputy Among told Ssemujju on Monday at parliament that he had no option but to wait for the committee to conclude the probe.
“Like your first attempt to remove us in [August, last year] and I told you [then] that we will complete our term, and it happened. The case won’t be any different even for this probe,” Among said.
Nonetheless, the committee met yesterday and Katuntu urged Munyagwa and Kasibante to wait until their names are formally announced by the speaker on the floor of parliament.
“We are not dying to be in these positions, we can only stay in these positions in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of Parliament,” Katuntu said.
“Nobody is stuck in an office against the Rules of Procedure, once the Rules tell us to leave, we shall leave as soon as they do,” he added.
Basing on the provisions of Rule 157 (8), Katuntu said, “No member has been designated to this committee and his or her name announced by the speaker in parliament for him to assume membership or leadership. I have seen a lot of debate on social media and the press claiming that somebody is the chairperson of this committee, and Hon Kasibante, the deputy. Once they have been designated, and their names announced by the speaker in parliament, they will assume leadership,” Katuntu said.
Angered by his communication, Kasibante asked whether the committee has the mandate within the Rules of Procedure to extend its tenure.