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Court rejects Parliament bid on oil probes

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th January 2012 03:01 AM

The Constitutional Court has rejected the bid by Parliament to defend its role in probing oil bribery allegations.

Court rejects Parliament bid on oil probes

The Constitutional Court has rejected the bid by Parliament to defend its role in probing oil bribery allegations.

By Anne Mugisa                                  

The Constitutional Court has rejected the bid by the Parliamentary Commission seeking to join the Attorney General in defending the work of Parliamentary committees in probing oil bribery allegations and accusations of contempt of Parliament.

The Constitutional Court judges, in their ruling read by Registrar Erias Kisawuzi on Thursday, ruled that the application is incompetent because the Commission has no mandate to represent Parliament in Court.

They said that the Commission was established to cater for the welfare of MPs and not legal representation of the institution.  They said that it is the Attorney General who is the principal legal officer mandated to defend all government officials and departments.

The Commission last month applied to the Constitutional Court to be allowed to defend their stand in setting up the committees, saying that the Attorney General does not seem to be representing their interests well.

They said that they did not agree with what the Attorney General filed in defence to a petition filed by a voter Severino Twinobusingye to stop the probes by Parliament and its Committee into the oil sector and contempt of Parliament.

‘Probe biased’

Twinobusingye contends that Parliament was biased against ministers Hillary Onek (internal affairs) and Sam Kutesa (foreign affairs) who are accused in allegations of soliciting for bribes. Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi was dragged into the allegations along the way, going by a WikiLeaks cable from the US envoy which the latter has since dismissed as false.

President Yoweri Museveni has on several occasions said his local and international Police probe has since proved the allegations as malicious and fictitious forgeries.

Twinobusingye further contends that the ministers had not been accorded a chance to defend themselves before appointing the Ad hoc committee to probe them, and another one on whether by refusing to stand down, they committed contempt of Parliament.

He says that the Ad hoc committee itself was biased and that Parliament had become a judge in its own case.

Clash of differences

As a result of the disagreement, two groups of government lawyers clashed before the Constitutional Court last month. The lawyers included a team led by the Director, parliamentary Commission legal services, Sitna Cherotich and Senior Legislative Counsel, Solomon Kirunda on one side and those for the Attorney General as well as counsel for Twinobusingye on the other side.

The Justices on the Coram included Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Mpagi-Bahigeine, Steven Kavuma, Augustine Nshimye, Stella Arach-Amoko and Remmy Kasule.

The Attorney General and Twinobusingye's lawyers were opposed to the Parliamentary Committee being allowed to be co-respondents. They argued that the mandate to defend Government business including Parliament is the Attorney General's.

The Parliamentary Commission lawyers complained that the Attorney General intentionally misrepresented the Parliamentary Commission by conceding that ordering Mbabazi to step down in order to be investigated was unconstitutional.

"The Speaker together with the Commission deem it fit that Parliament's voice be heard in this petition," Cherotich argued in court on December 14, 2011.

Mbabazi, as leader of Government business, is a member of the Commission. The other members are the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Leader of Opposition, Minister of Finance and four backbench members of Parliament.

The Parliamentary Commission lawyers had argued that they wanted to present the Parliament's case in the interest of justice.

One of them argued that this is a case of the Executive clashing with the Legislature and would test the doctrine of separation of powers. But Court resolved that Parliamentary Commission serves a different role from legal representation of Parliament.

Court rejects Parliament bid on oil probes

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