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Why Obore is wrong on legality of the service award to Mpuuga and other commissioners


Chris Obore is the Director, Communication & Public Affairs Parliament of Uganda.

On 9th March 2024, the New Vision ran an article by Mr. Chris Obore, titled ‘Analysis of the Uganda Law Society’s statement on service award granted to the Commissioners and the Leader of Opposition in May 2022’ in which he defended the service awards paid to Hon. Mathias Mpuuga, Hon. Solomon Silwany, Hon. Prossy Akampulira Mbabazi and Hon. Esther Afoyochan. The four are members of the Parliamentary Commission and on 6th May 2022 made the decision to award themselves a total of UGX 1.7bn/=. Obore claims that the Parliamentary Commission has power to determine remuneration of its members and that the award was included in the Parliamentary Commission’s budget and approved by Parliament under Article 155(2) of the Constitution.

Obore was responding to a statement by Uganda Law Society made on 5th March 2024, that the service awards were illegal as they were not supported by a bill or motion presented to Parliament on behalf of the executive, under Article 93 of the Constitution.

In defence of the Uganda Law Society’s opinion

First, Obore does not provide any evidence of the lawful creation and authorisation of payment of a one time pay-off service award to the four commissioners. It would have been helpful to the Ugandan public if Obore provided documents to support his claims that all legal steps were duly taken to create and approve the service award. The citizens are entitled to this transparency and accountability as part of the duty of good governance of public officers, and from the person who has custody of the documents.

To address the merits of Obore’s article, the ULS opinion is based on Article 93(a)(ii) of the Constitution that requires any increases in a charge to the Consolidated Fund to be moved by a bill introduced by the executive. To the extent that the Parliamentary Commission created a new emolument for its commissioners, and thereby increased the charge on the Consolidated Fund, this increase had to be followed by a bill in Parliament led by the executive. This is the constitutional checks and balances principle in application.

There is no amount of municipal law that can ever qualify or redact a constitutional requirement. If Obore had read a little deeper, the court in Krispus Ayena Odongo upheld the Mwesigye decision and the application of Article 93 as described above (page 44, lines 15 – 30).

Section 32 (allowances of members of the commission) of the Administration of Parliament Act (Cap 257) requires the approval of Parliament and must be read with Article 93 of the Constitution.

It is worrisome and symptomatic of the current public concerns that the Parliamentary Commission thinks it has absolute powers and a blank cheque for remuneration of members of the Commission and of Parliament.

The criminality of the Gang of Four

There is also the very disturbing criminality on the part of the four commissioners. This is the flagrant breach of the Leadership Code (sections 8, 12A) when the commissioners as leaders took part in a meeting to in which they had a personal interest. The four commissioners approved an award that was a one time pay-off only applicable to themselves (‘personal to holder’).

The service award was therefore illegal from creation and remains so. An illegality is like barren soil, nothing can grow from it. The four commissioners committed a criminal offence under the Leadership Code Act and should be prosecuted before the Leadership Code Tribunal.

Call for a public statement from the Speaker

We share the profound disappointment of the public at the lackadaisical response of the Speaker to #UgandaParliamentExhibition. The public concerns range from illegal recruitments and nepotism to dubious and exorbitant payments for per diem trips taken and some not taken, to alleged suspicious corporate social responsibility payments funnelled through accounts of low-level employees in Parliament generally depicting an institution in a moral crisis. The amounts of money cited are staggering for a poor country like Uganda and given all our wants in infrastructure, basic education and healthcare.

It is grating to the teeth that those in charge of the national purse have awarded themselves a hefty pay and perks and even worse have arrogated to themselves a purported corporate social responsibility budget. Instead of allocating monies to government to spend in accordance with national priorities, these corporate social responsibility monies represent a hijacking of national planning process and resources and their diversion to the whims of the Speaker. It is not the responsibility of Parliament to undertake development expenditure or to support social causes. If Members of Parliament wish to undertake projects to help their communities, they may do this at their own cost.

The Speaker and Members of Parliament exercise power on behalf of the people. The people are entitled to demand for explanations from them in whatever manner. It behoves a conscientous leader to have the humility to remember they are but messengers of the people.

We therefore call on the Speaker to make a public statement to address the concerns of the people. Continuing business as usual while sending minnows to attempt to spin the concerns of the public is an insult to the people of Uganda.

Peter Mukidi Walubiri, Mohmed Mbabazi, Dr. Daniel Walyemera, Lillian Drabo, George Musisi, Julius Warugaba, Eron Kiiza, Emmanuel Ankunda, Phillip Karugaba

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