“It’s not in the president’s interest that a decision that brings dishonor to his office is taken."
PIC: From right, IGG Irene Mulyagonja, Daniel Makumbi, and Simon Ogwal appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) over the 6bn oil cash bonus on Monday. (Credit: Miriam Namutebi)
KAMPALA - Inspector General of Government, Lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja, has taken exception to some rogue elements hiding behind the president's constitutional title of "a fountain of honor" to commit crimes that sully the president's office.
Mulyagonja, Uganda's second female ombudsman, made the remarks Monday while appearing before lawmakers probing the manner and propriety of paying sh6b to 42 government technocrats who allegedly played a key role in winning an oil-related case against Tullow in a London court.
"The president is not above the law," she said in response to a question by committee chairperson, Abdu Katuntu.
"He has broad powers under the constitution but there is a caveat to the effect those powers should be exercised within the laws of the country."
Gingerly, Katuntu had enlisted Mulyagonja's opinion about a host of technocrats that have appeared before the committee in regard to the oil bonus payment insisting that the payment was proper because the "fountain of honor" had sanctioned it.
Mulyagonja noted that the president has a host of advisers including legal ones who advise him on the steps to be taken before a decision is taken.
"It's not in the president's interest that a decision that brings dishonor to his office is taken," Mulyagonja, who had at the start of her submission vowed not to discuss "the president", said.
Under Uganda's constitution, the president, as fountain of honor, is the only person with immunity from prosecution while still in office.
Mulyagonja conceded that when the issue of ‘golden presidential handshakes', as oil bonuses have since been labeled, came to light, "there was pressure for the inspectorate of government to intervene".
"But we realized from the onset that with reports that the president had approved the payment, the investigations will have serious political undertones. So, it's better for parliament to lead these investigations," said the IGG.
Mulyagonja had two directors from the inspectorate of government - David Makumbi and Simon Ogwal in tow.
She declined to proffer a legal opinion on the propriety of the oil bonuses, saying she has scanty information about the issue since it's parliament conducting the probe.
Besides, it would offend the principles of natural justice by taking a position without giving the beneficiaries a right to be heard.
The committee will meet ministry of finance officials over the oil bonus payments.