Amama defends self over OPM
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi yesterday refused to accept responsibility in the scam involving the loss of more than Shs50 billion in foreign aid meant for post-conflict recovery efforts in northern Uganda and Karamoja.
A jolly Premier, who regretted the “thefts” in his office amid taunts from some MPs who accused him of being part of the scam, was pressed on the purchase of a Shs400 million Mercedes Benz. He also answered questions about his role in stopping the transfer of former Principal Accountant in OPM, Mr Geoffrey Kazinda.
“You drive a brand new Mercedes Benz procured from PRDP funds yet the technical people from your office told you that there was no money for that vehicle and yourself said you don’t care where the money is coming from. Are you happy as a leader when you see the children in the north suffering? Does this make you proud as a serious citizen of this country?” Mr Gerald Karuhanga (Indep. Youth Western) said.
Before Mr Mbabazi could answer the question, Ms Christine Abia (FDC, Arua Woman), added: “This Mercedes Benz must very comfortable, but that comfort is equal to the pain of the victims of nodding disease in the north, those of us who live with the community share the pain with the people and take note of your luxury.”
Mr Mbabazi responded to these and other concerns by saying: “I have never been callous in my life, I care about the plight of the people in northern Uganda, but I need a car, I need an office and I need a salary to work.”
The Prime Minister told the committee that he did not participate in the procurement of the Mercedes. “The Benz I found in office was bought in 2003 and it was having mechanical problems and sometimes I could even use my private car because it was breaking down many times,” Mr Mbabazi said. Mr Mbabazi maintained that he was unaware that the car was bought using money diverted from PRDP.
PAC Chairman Kassiano Wadri faulted the premier for failing to ask where the money for his official car came from. Committee Vice Chairperson Paul Mwiru (FDC, Jinja Municipality East) reminded Mr Mbabazi that it was irregular for him to demand for a particular vehicle.
The committee heard that although the Ministry of Public Service cleared a vehicle of 4,500cc, Mr Mbabazi demanded for 5,000cc, a claim he denied and tabled the car logbook indicating that it’s 4666cc.
MPs criticised Mr Mbabazi for employing “diversionary tactics” when he insisted that the minister for General Duties at OPM is the one in charge of the office. He, however, insisted that his job as Premier is to coordinate the government programmes in all ministries. “But I fully take political responsibility for all ministries including OPM. I preside over law and order issues at the top management level,” he said.
After committee lead counsel, Mr Maxwell Akora (UPC, Maruzi), accused Mr Mbabazi of helping Kazinda to stay on even after his Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana wrote to Accountant General Gustavio Bwoch requesting his removal, the premier denied any wrongdoing. Mr Mbabazi said when he received reports that Kazinda was being transferred to Gender Ministry yet he had not handed over officially, he got suspicious.