Kampala, Uganda | URN | The High Court has ordered all MPs who benefited from the Shs 10 billion allocation to either refund it or hand it over to the national or district COVID-19 task forces.
Justice Michael Elubu issued the order Wednesday 29th afternoon while delivering his ruling on an application filed by the Ntungamo municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga and Erute South MP Jonathan Odur contesting the manner in which parliament allocated the said money.
The parliamentary commission through its lawyers led by Sitinah Cherotich agreed with Karuhanga that the money be returned through the three channels listed as long as it is under public control.
Karuhanga through his lawyer, David Mpanga proposed that legislators who received the money and don’t represent any district, return it to either the parliamentary commission or national taskforces, which will then channel it to the district task forces.
Court also heard that the interim order issued by court on April 21 temporarily blocking the payment of the money to the legislators was overtaken by events since it was deposited on individual accounts of the legislators on April 17, 2020.
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Mpanga stated that as long as the money first goes into public control, the merits of the main suit challenging the procedure leading to its allocation can be dealt with at a later stage. Shortly after the court directive Karuhanga told journalists that he has now got some relief because the money will return in public control.
Karuhanga petitioned court last week accusing parliament breached its rules of procedure when it included the money in question into the report of the budget committee without consent of the committee members. The Shs 10 billion is part of the Shs 304 billion supplementary budget that was approved by parliament on April 4th, 2020 to facilitate the Covid-19 response.
Karuhanga alleged that parliament deducted the money from the Health and Security budgets to distribute it among legislators to purportedly carry out Covid-19 sensitisation activities yet the procedure leading to the same was marred by procedural impropriety.
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Each MP pocketed Shs 20 million. In his application, Karuhanga argued that citizens were most likely to suffer from irreparable damage if parliamentarians are not directed to return the monies to public accounts for proper usage. Some legislators had already vowed to return the money once it is deposited on their accounts.
On Tuesday, the speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said they would forward the returned money to districts where the affected legislators hail from.
Last night, President Yoweri Museveni also described the actions of the MPs who received the money as morally reprehensible; adding that they had entered into a trap.