Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has ordered Parliament’s Committee on Rules to investigate Finance minister Matia Kasaija over contempt of Parliament in what seems to be an escalating fallout between the ministry and the national assembly.
Ms Kadaga’s directive on Thursday came up after Mr Kasaija did not appear before the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry as summoned and defiantly told them off that both committees “can’t do anything”.
The PAC wants Mr Kasaija to come clean on the accountability for $42m (about Shs150b) that was part of the $200m (about Shs700b) loan from the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (PTA Bank) to buy drugs.
Issuing the directive on Thursday, Ms Kadaga said Kasaija launched an “unprovoked attack “on Parliament as he delivered the Budget Speech on June 8, when he talked of corrupt MPs and threatened to expose them.
“On June 8, (during the presentation of the Budget speech), the minister just decided to attack Parliament. Totally unprovoked and uncalled for,” Ms Kadaga said.
About three weeks ago a charged debate ensued in the House where the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, ruled that the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi must appear before the national assembly and apologise for insulting MPs. On Thursday, PAC chairperson Angelline Osege and the Trade Committee Chairman Kenneth Lubogo narrated how they invited Mr Kasaija to appear before their committees but only received rude responses.
Ms Osege accused Mr Kasaija and Mr Muhakanizi of exuding “consistent impunity, arrogance and expression of indispensability”.
“I telephoned minister Kasaija to work out a way forward but to my dismay the minister stated that PAC cannot do anything to him that he cannot and shall not come and he hang up. The committee shall not allow anyone denigrate its work,” Ms Osege told Parliament.However, when contacted, Mr Kasaija described Ms Osege’s remarks as a pack of lies.
“That’s a big lie. I did not know that it was Hon Osege calling. She did not even introduce herself,” Mr Kasaija shot back.
He further denied shunning Parliament’s summons.
“I have never defied Parliament. The night before (the Committee sitting), I called Hon Karuhanga and told him that I was going to State House for a meeting and there was no way I could attend the meeting,” Mr Kasaija told Daily Monitor.
He declined to comment on the Speaker’s charges that he insulted Parliament. He said he will respond to Ms Kadaga’s charges when he appears before the Parliament’s Rules Committee.
The Chairman of the Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry, Mr Kenneth Lubogo, urged Speaker Kadaga to take action on Mr Kasaija and Mr Muhakanizi to prevent them from making further attacks on Parliament.
President Museveni is also reportedly furious over the missing funds for the drugs and has quietly given MPs green light to go after the responsible technocrats in the ministry of Finance, which he said is “full of thieves”.
The National Medical Stores had complained to him over the missing funds for medicines.
When Mr Muhakanizi appeared before PAC to explain his role over the controversial Shs150b, the session turned hostile as MPs attacked him in turns in rather uncharitable language.
However, behind the war of words between Parliament and the Executive is a simmering clash over money as technocrats at the Finance ministry view MPs as money-minded while the legislators think the Treasury officials are corrupt to extraordinary scale. The government’s controversial car grant to MPs was the first source of collision between the ministry of Finance and Parliament.