Investigation into budgetary racketeering: police arrest three MPs

Police yesterday arrested three MPs after a day of interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) headquarters in Kibuli, a suburb of Kampala.

They are Yusuf Mutembuli, the lawmaker representing Bunyole East in Butaleja district; his counterpart from Busiki constituency in Namutumba, Mr. Paul Akamba; and Ms. Cissy Namujju, Lwengo District Representative.
All are members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and the party’s parliamentary group spokesperson, Mr Brandon Kintu, said last night that he currently had no official position on the arrests. The law, he said, should take its course.

Details of the proceedings against the detained parliamentarians have not been disclosed and we have not been able to determine whether they were detained as suspects or potential witnesses.
Parliament spokesperson Chris Obore, in response to our questions about the arrests, said it was unlikely that the police summoned the lawmakers for questioning without informing the Speaker of Parliament.

“It’s a question of procedure,” he stressed. “As long as they were arrested after notification to the President, all we can demand is professional treatment from the investigating agencies.”
Mr Obore said MPs were always “suspect until proven otherwise”, adding that even if he did not know, “the President generally follows up on MPs (in difficulty), either by sending others high-ranking legislators, or by itself.”

Yusuf Mutembuli, Member of Parliament for Bunyole East

Ms Mariam Naigaga, representative of Namutumba district, where detained MP Akamba hails from, and Maurice Henry Kibalya of Bugabula South were among the MPs who visited Kira Police Division yesterday. They declined to speak to reporters after their visit.
It was unclear whether they were there of their own free will or as emissaries of Parliament’s leaders.

Probe focus
Sources said detectives were generally investigating allegations that some unmentioned officials had threatened money during the handling of the national budget after President Museveni revealed last week that he had evidence of ‘such a racket within the government.

There is currently no evidence of wrongdoing by the detained lawmakers or that they are facing similar allegations.
A team of detectives led by Detective/Deputy Commissioner of Police Mark Odongo, the principal investigator of law enforcement corruption cases, questioned them yesterday for about five hours.

In the evening, they were driven from the CID headquarters in Kibuli, through the city center, to the Kira Divisional Police Headquarters in Kira Municipality, about 14 kilometers away, where they were still in cells at press time.
Relatives and friends, including fellow MPs, brought bedding and personal items, including buckets, lotions, a suitcase and a carton of bottled water.

A group of lawmakers met with police commanders of the Kira Police Division around 6:40 p.m. and left around 9 p.m., leaving their colleagues behind. The lawmakers declined to speak to our reporters, with one simply saying, “You’re not going to get what you want.”
A lawyer for the detained lawmakers, who requested anonymity, said “they (the detained lawmakers) will sleep here (in the police cells) and we will leave from there tomorrow (today).”
“We will see if we release them on bail or if they are produced in court,” he added.

Cissy Namujju, MP for Lwengo

DPP waits for files
Back in the city center, the Public Prosecution Office (DPP) spokesperson said it had not yet received the police files on the trio for review and legal advice.
“The file has not yet been submitted to our office…for reading and review of the charges. The charges are to be determined upon submission of the file for review,” said Mrs. Jacquelyn Okui.
CID Director Tom Magambo was not available at press time.

Police station
Earlier today, the police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, during his weekly press briefing, attempted to dismiss our article from yesterday’s edition in which we reported that the police had summoned about half -dozen deputies and senior technocrats from the Ministry of Finance.

The individuals were expected to contribute to investigations into allegations of budgetary corruption, ordered by President Museveni after his state of the nation address on Thursday, during which lawmakers rejected his proposal to pardon the alleged perpetrators.

“I have heard stories that there is a racket from the…Ministry of Finance, they are bringing accountants from the ministries to Parliament to work with certain people, to provide certain funds, on the condition that they (the civil servants ) take a part of it. I didn’t believe it (at first), but now I have proof,” he said Thursday.

The head of state then drew a “sword of blood” and ordered police and prosecutors to go after those responsible for the thieves after accusing Finance and Parliament officials of transactional budgeting; legislators allegedly collude with accountants to allocate public resources in exchange for bribes.

Led by prosecutions
Sources close to Mark Odongo’s investigations said they were prosecutorial-oriented, meaning the action is based on prosecutable evidence, and should be broadened to target bureaucrats and political leaders of various ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the government.

In last night’s interview, NRM Caucus spokesperson Kintu said detained MPs should be presumed innocent until proven guilty – as required by law.
“We have several agencies that fight corruption. As you heard the President say (during SONA), he is against corruption and anyone who is corrupt is against the country. Let the law take its course,” he added.

Mr Kintu said they did not know the truth yet, but the ruling party was discreetly investigating allegations of corruption against some of its members. He did not name names or provide details of the cases.

Paul Akamba, Busiki County, Namutumba District (NRM)

Cissy Namujju, MP for Lwengo
The lawmaker retained her seat from the 10th legislature. In 2017, she was thrust into the spotlight during a court hearing for failing to answer basic questions about primary literacy, including “what is a map?” » and “characteristics of an insect”. The court hearing challenged his election following questions about his academic credentials. She retained her seat after three judges unanimously ruled that she was validly elected to the position. Lawmakers have always maintained that she has all the qualifications required to run for parliamentary seats. Currently, she is a member of the Physical Infrastructure Committee of Parliament.

Yusuf Mutembuli, Member of Parliament for Bunyole East
He has been involved in politics since 2011. Candidate under the banner of the Democratic Party (DP), Mutembuli lost to Mr. Emmanuel Dombo, now director of communications at the NRM secretariat. In 2016, while on an independent ticket, Mutembuli lost to Moses Nagwomu of the NRM. He ultimately won the seat in 2021 after running on the NRM ticket. He is currently vice-president of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

Paul Akamba, Busiki County, Namutumba District (NRM)

Akamba retained his seat from the 10th legislature. Currently he is a member of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.