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Is speaker Anita Among a victim of political witch hunt?

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Anita Among

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament’s Publicist, Chris Obore has indicated that allegations of graft at Parliament are aimed at bringing down the personality of the Speaker Of Parliament, Annet Anita Among.

Obore, who doubles as the Director of Public Affairs has turned fire on Agora Discourse activist group saying it is being funded by one of the embassies to fight Anita Annet Among.

“The exhibition is being hijacked to target the person of Anita Among. We also know that this campaign is not an innocent campaign for accountability. We know that a certain embassy has given you contacts. We know that since Anita Among passed the Homosexuality Bill, an effort has been to bring her down. What can you use?  How she is using the Parliament budget,” said Obore.

Obore was speaking during X (formerly Twitter) organized by the Agora Discourse activist group that has been running an accountability campaign dubbed #UgandaParliamentExhibition. He however said not all the information about the exhibition is wrong.

“I dispute the amounts, I dispute some trips they claim to have been taken. Because I know the trips the Speaker has taken,” said Obore.

The exhibition has come out with documents about alleged corruption, abuse of office, illegal recruitment of staff, and questionable expenditure at the current Parliament headed by Bukedea Woman MP, Anita Annet Among, who is also the chair of the Parliamentary Commission. Neither she nor her Deputy, Thomas Tayebwa have commented on the matter.

Is Anita Among being Targeted?  

Agather Atuhaire one of the activists, one of the faces behind Agora and #UgandaParliamentExhibition dismissed accusations that their campaign was targeting Anita Among’s personality intending to pull her down.

“This pettiness of not just from Chris Obore but Ugandans who say oh it is personal. We have heard that it is personal ever since we started these exhibitions. And this must be the sixth” Said Atuhaire who has just received an International Women of Courage Award from the American government.

“So let’s say I even hate the speaker. There is no day I have gone on Twitter and said anything personal. I have gone there and put facts. Let’s interrogate what is there. The problem is that she leads an arm of that that we really entrust with so much power. But also so much responsibility” he explained.

On Tuesday, Agather Atuhaire released another data set about staff in Parliament who receive money that is unexplained o their bank accounts. They include drivers and political assistants.

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They allegedly receive money on behalf of the Speaker. According to Atuhaire, Chris Obore was among those. Prominent on the list is one Daniel Adilo. The list shows that Adilo received billions of shillings in advance for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) outreaches and mobilization by Anita Among.

Such monies according to Atuhaire were also channeled through Chris Obore’s account. “I put money there. Chris Obore is one of them. These people receive money and withdraw it on behalf of the Speaker. This is information I shared earlier and I’m going to share all of them” She promised

Chris Obore has insisted that the data being shared is far from the truth. He however said he cannot share the authentic documents because of the restrictions about the oath of secrecy and allegiance Atuhaire on the other hand insists that the data she has been sharing is authentic.

“So if someone disputes that information, the onus is on them to provide the correct information from a source that is more trustworthy than the one we have,” she said.

She also declined to name the person or officers in Parliament who have volunteered to surrender what appeared like highly guarded information.

It is said that as late Speaker, Jacob Oulanya assumed the administration of Parliament, he and his then Deputy removed some of the perceived Kadaga loyalists from the juicy job leaving behind a discontented lot in the staff of parliament who could be leaking such documents.

A Member Of Parliament, who asked for anonymity recently told URN that some of the members of staff were reshuffled or moved from more lucrative jobs following the defeat of former Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.

According to the legislator, some of the problems in Parliament are due to a breakdown in systems. He said a lot has changed since the retirement of former Clerk to Parliament, Aenus Tandekwire who had served in parliament for close to three and half decades. TandeKwire, who was the Sixth Clerk to Parliament was known for being strict.

The MP told URN that it was unlikely that Tandekiwire would participate in or approve of the malpractices that have been reported during the tenures of Jane Kibirige and now Adolph Mwesige.

The MP said Parliament seemed not to have carefully studied the likely consequences of passing a Bill by then Bugulabula South MP, Proscovia Salaamu Musumba on amendments to the Administration of Parliament Act in 1998.

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The Bill amended the administration of the Parliament Act. It deleted a section that provided that the Minister of Finance should provide funds to Parliament through the Appropriation Act. It gave more responsibility to the Parliamentary Commission on matters related to MPS and Staff Welfare.  The Office of the Speaker of Parliament was in summary vested with too much power without adequate checks and balances.

Former Leader of the Opposition in the 10th Parliament, Winnie Kiiza has roundly laughed off the suggestion that the exposure of the alleged rot is aimed at bringing down the speakers.

She said she and her colleagues in the opposition faced claims that they were being funded by foreigners at the time when they were fighting for the retention of the age limits for the President in the constitution.

“So when citizens want to hold us accountable, we should say there is another hand of a foreign who wants to be so and so down. Let’s own up and possibly bring the correct path to the citizens. So that they can begin believing in us” said Kiiza

“The Parliament of Uganda is people-centered. And when people want to know how their affairs are being managed, let’s just do the honorable thing of owning up to some mistakes if they are there” said Kiiza.

The former Kasese Woman MP urged the leadership at Parliament to come out with alternative accountability to what Agora has brought if Ugandans are to hold the Parliament in high esteem.

She says the #UgandaParliamentExhibition in her view acts highlighter on some of those issues that need to be understood by the population

Should the leader of the opposition be rewarded?

Winnie Kiiza said she is generally not opposed to the idea of rewarding public servants because it has been a practice in public service that when people retire, they are given a retirement package.

“I think the reward in the office of the Leader of Opposition has become an issue in the exhibition because of the way it was handled. The office of the leader of the opposition is a noble office and should be handled as such,” Observes Kiiza.

Winnie Kiiza’s opinion isn’t different from that of the Uganda Law Society on the 500 million shillings allegedly given to the former leader of the opposition, Mathias Mpuuga as a “service award”.

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The Law Society said the award to Mpuuga was illegal because there was no Bill or motion introduced in Parliament by the government to provide for the service award to Mpuuga.

The government, Spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo is one of those within the government who have lately been accused of trying to pull down Anita Among.

Ofwono has publicly demanded that the Anita Among leadership should come out and explain the current crisis and if possible give answers to questions being asked. He for instance said the former Leader of Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga received a bribe within the meaning of the Anti-Corruption Act, and that violated of section 9 of the Leadership Code.

Ofwono denied the accusations that he was fighting Anita Among. Ofwono Opondo he had been accused of fighting former Speaker Rebecca Kadaga whenever he raised issues similar to what has been raised.

Corruption in Africa Parliaments Uganda is among the Parliaments under the watch of the parliamentary monitoring organization- the African Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations Network (APOM).

APMON’s Executive Director, SammyObeng said that it is expected an institution like the Parliament of Uganda which among other functions supposed to provide oversight over the Executive lives beyond reproach.

“And so the question of who watches the watchman comes in. Then is it expected that when some of these things come up, people will be worried. Understandably so. Because all Ugandans cannot enter the Ugandan parliament to oversee the executive,” said Obeng.

He said when Ugandans get to social media to ask questions, they ask because it is their right to. Obeng said what is happening at Parliament is not unique to Uganda when it comes to parliamentary accountability.

“And it is really unfortunate for this to be the kind of reflection of parliaments that are supposed to be the oversight body but refuse to be accountable”

Obeng notes often, it has emerged that in terms of financial management, Parliament’s budgets tend to be shrouded in obscurity and secrecy.

“The procurement that they engage with, even who gets recruited to Parliament. The people who don’t merit their roles come in. And there is a lot of opacity in parliamentary travels. These are areas of real corruption risk” Obeng revealed.

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