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ULS faults Parliament over COSASE bribery allegations

By Barbra Kabahumuza, Michael Odeng

Added 11th April 2019 06:00 PM

The ULS vice president said the IGG has a legal mandate to hold all public institutions including MPs accountable in the exercise of their duties.

Uganda Law Society (ULS) has faulted Parliament for stopping the IGG from investigating MPS on the committee on commissions, statutory authorities and state enterprises (COSASE) on allegations of bribery during the recent probe into the irregular sale of commercial banks.

On February 19, 2019, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) in a letter, directed Internal Security Organisation (ISO) boss Kaka Bagyenda to investigate COSASE MPs on allegations of bribery.

The directive by the IGG was based on a complaint from a whistle-blower, that the MPs sitting on COSASE had allegedly received money from the Central Bank and former Crane bank owner Sudhir Ruparelia during the course of the bank probe.

However, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said it was in breach of separation of powers and that the intended investigations were an attack on parliamentary investigations and blackmail on the house and its members in the performance of their constitutional mandate.   

The MPs who were supposed to be investigated are former chairperson Abdu Katuntu, his deputy Anita Among, Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa, and Aruu North MP Odonga Otto.

During the launch of rule of law report at Kampala Serena Hotel on Thursday, the ULS vice president, Pheona Wall said the IGG has a legal mandate to hold all public institutions including MPs accountable in the exercise of their duties.

“Parliament should be accountable in case of any abuse of parliamentary privilege and it cannot be used as a defence for criminal actions,” she said.

She also recommended that the administration of the Judiciary Bill should be passed to allow judges retire with their salaries and benefits to avoid the temptation to be corrupt and allow them to do private business while serving as judicial officers.

Regarding the closure of the Rwanda-Uganda border, Wall revealed that they have petitioned the East African Court of Justice, saying the closure infringes on the right of East African Community members free movement of goods and persons.

“We feel our leaders are not respecting our freedoms when they close borders. We believe the court case will be expedited because people are suffering and trade has been reduced by 30 per cent,” she said.

The first quarterly rule of law report for 2019, records minimal positive developments towards the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law.

The report notes issues of paramount abuse of human rights, particularly of children’s right, the right to life, torture of suspects in police custody, health and the clampdown on the right to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

The report also highlights key developments made by security agencies, which have exercised some level of restraint and professionalism in arresting and handling suspects.

Prof. Fredrick Ssempebwa said it was wrong for the IGG to mandate ISO to investigate bribery allegations against former COSASE MPs.

“No one is above the law. If an accusation has been levelled against you, why don’t you allow to be investigated so that you can prove your innocence,” he said.

He said the investigations into the bank probe did not require being influenced through bribery.

“I am surprised that the former COSASE MPs are not being investigated yet the IGG has powers to do so.”

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