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MPs force Bigirimana out of office

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Parliament yesterday recommended the interdiction of Pius Bigirimana, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, over the mismanagement and failure to put to proper use funds for the Peace, Recovery and Development programme (PRDP) for northern Uganda.

In support of a motion that was moved by the Dokolo County MP, Felix Okot Ogong, who also is the chairperson of the Greater North Forum, MPs resolved that all officials named in a special report by the Auditor General as having been involved in the mismanagement of the PRDP funds should take responsibility for the lost funds and should vacate their offices immediately.

“Parliament does resolve that the government should conduct a forensic audit and streamline the management of PRDP meant for the Greater North in the Office of the Prime Minister,” Ogong announced, reading the motion.

Before the House could adopt the motion, Cecilia Ogwal (the Dokolo Woman MP) provided an amendment to it by recommending to the executive that Bigirimana and all the other officers implicated in the report should be interdicted.

“I want to propose that the PS and others, as named, should be interdicted and be liable to refund stolen funds,” Ogwal said as her submission was accepted by the House.

The resolution came a day after the Auditor General tabled before Parliament a special report revealing how billions of shillings meant for the PRDP were mismanaged in the OPM.

During the debate, MPs overwhelmingly supported the motion, which was seconded by Stephen Ochola (the Serere), decrying OPM officials’ negligence and failure to comply with the law and sanctioned norms, leading to the loss of funds.

“This country has been plundered and we cannot let this happen anymore. Those who are named should take administrative, political and financial responsibility,” said Stephen Kagwera (Burahya).

Raphael Magyezi (Igara West) cited Article 164 (2) of the Constitution in calling for Bigirimana to be  punished. “The PS authorized ghost workshops and if we don’t send him out of office, we will be [practising] double standards,” Magyezi said.

Jack Sabiiti (Rukiga) called for the Accountant General to be reprimanded. He read out Section 14 of the Public Finance and Accountability Act, which only permits payments authorized by a warrant.

The deputy NRM whip, David Bahati, with support from Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West), urged Parliament to wait for the Public Accounts Committee findings after considering the AG’s report, but the view was defeated.

The duo argued that Parliament should not base its decision on the AG’s report, since the House has an accountability committee, but the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, ruled that the report is also a document of the House.

“The AG’s office is part of Parliament, just like PAC; so, there is no problem,” she ruled.

Some MPs, led by Krispus Ayena (Oyam North) and Allen Andrew (Bugabula North), wanted Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and the minister of state in charge of Northern Uganda, Rebecca Amuge, to take political responsibility as well, but Kadaga said that was not part of the findings. In support of the motion, Mbabazi promised to brief the House on the developments since the genesis of the scandal.

“There was mismanagement of funds; indeed there was outright theft and in a strongest terms possible, we condemn this act,” Mbabazi told the House, adding that the executive would respect the resolution of Parliament.

In July, Parliament recommended the interdiction of the Internal Affairs PS, Stephen Kagoda, but no action has been taken by the executive.

“We want government to take immediate action and not delay this matter like it has done in Kagoda’s case,” Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central) told The Observer.

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