Oil-debate: Who said what

By Vision Reporter

KAMPALA – Parliament on Tuesday resolved to establish a probe into the oil deals and bribery allegations against Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and the two senior Cabinet ministers Sam Kutesa and Hilary Onek.

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 KAMPALA – Parliament on Tuesday resolved to establish a probe into the oil deals and bribery allegations against Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and the two senior Cabinet ministers Sam Kutesa and Hilary Onek.

In a stormy and acrimonious day-long debate that went on until past 10:00pm and characterised by verbal exchanges, the MPs also said Mbabazi, foreign affairs minister Kutesa, former energy minister Onek and other government officials should be suspended until the parliamentary probe into the oil deals and bribery allegations is concluded.

Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga accused the three ministers of having received bribes from oil companies; but they all dismissed the accusations as false.

Parliament also asked the Government to withhold approval to Tullow Oil’s imminent sale of stakes to Total and CNOOC under a deal worth $2.9b.

Yesterday’s resolutions followed a special sitting of Parliament to debate the country’s oil sector. This was after MPs petitioned the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, to recall Parliament from recess to debate the oil deals.

The legislators also passed a resolution asking the Government to halt executing of further oil contracts pending the passing of necessary laws.

The MPs yesterday also urged the Government to begin the process of participating in the transparency initiatives for the extractive industries.

MPs also said the new oil agreements should not include provisions or clauses barring the Government from revealing contents of the signed agreements.

First Lady Janet Kataaha Museveni (NRM) was forced to withdraw a comment that the way MPs were handling the matter was rendering it “useless.” 

After protests from MPs, Kadaga ruled that Mrs. Museveni was out of order and told her to withdraw the comment, which she reluctantly did. 

Earlier in the day, the debate entered day two with MPs demanding that the three ministers named in the alleged bribery scandal step aside to pave way for a commission of inquiry into the allegations.

The atmosphere in the House was charged, as Vice-President Edward Ssekandi, Mbabazi, Kutesa and Onek faced off with hostile MPs who were baying for their blood.

The fully packed House was characterised by passionate exchanges, acrimony and rancour punctuated with tabling of documents with alleged incriminating evidence. The Speaker kept calling the MPs to order as they became unruly.  

MPs want ministers aside
The MPs argued that Mbabazi, Kutesa and Onek should step aside to avoid influencing the investigations.

Member after member talked of how the issue of corruption had eaten up the Ugandan society and how the 9th Parliament should move a step forward in fighting it.

“The three ministers should step aside to allow investigations go on. As long as they are still in office, they will influence the investigations. If they are found innocent, they will come back,” Stephen Kagwera (NRM) said.

The same demands were echoed by MPs Ephraim Biraaro (NRM), Hatwib Katoto (NRM), Alex Ruhinda (NRM), Kassiano Wadri (FDC), Stephen Mukitale (NRM) and Muhammad Nsereko (NRM).

Corruption allegations
On Monday, Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga, one of the seconders’ of the motion, alleged that Kutesa and Onek had received billions as bribes from Tullow, one of the companies prospecting for oil. He said the monies were channelled through their off-shore bank accounts.

Karuhanga quoted an American ambassador who alleged that Mbabazi had received payments from Eni and Tullow following an August 2009 meeting.

Documents fake
Vice-President Edward Ssekandi yesterday told the House that President Yoweri Museveni last year, upon receipt of the documents (tabled by Karuhanga) implicating the ministers, commissioned an investigation into the matter.  

“The President after some inquiry asked the Inspector General of Police to investigate the matter. The IGP thought that alleged crimes could not be investigated without involving the international community and asked authorities in Malta to help. The report from Malta Police said the documents were fake. The said account from which the money is said to have originated does not exist in the bank,” he said.

Ssekandi told Parliament that the President “was of the view that it is better we continue with investigations until the truth is found.”


MPs dismiss investigations
Efforts by Ssekandi to defend the accused ministers hit a snag when MPs said they could not rely on his submission unless he tabled a report of the Government investigations that he was alluding to. The leader of opposition, Nandala Mafabi, called on MPs not to trust Ssekandi. 

“Experience is the best teacher. How can we believe him yet he does not have a report,” he said.

Barnabas Tinkansimire (NRM) said the ministers were controlling key ministries and could have influenced the outcome of the investigations.

“Do we expect credible information coming out purporting that what was presented here is fake? How can we know that their (investigation) is not a forgery?” he asked.

Tinkasiimire was supported by Elijah Okupa who said the suspects should step aside to pave way for investigations.

“I have information that officials in Malta and Dubai will neither be willing to issue statements or append their signatures and stamps to documents implicating the ministers because of the mafia controlling the oil industry,” Okupa told MPs.


Oil-debate: who said what