Speaker Among blocks corruption debate amid growing public scrutiny

Security tight as Parliament is set to discuss Jim Spire's corruption exposé
The Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Anita Among.

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Speaker of Parliament Anita Among on Friday 15, March 2024, refused and blocked to engage in discussions regarding corruption allegations leveled against her.

Amidst growing scrutiny, Ms. Among broke her silence nearly two weeks after documents alleging corruption were released by Agora Discourse under #UgandaParliamentExhibition.

Activists like Makerere University Tutor, Dr. Jimmy Spire Ssentongo and Agatha Atuhaire (a journalist and lawyer), alongside digital platform Agora Discourse, have rallied public attention to hold Parliament accountable for alleged misallocation of public funds, through X (formerly Twitter), a micro-blogging service and social network,.

Ms. Among is accused of allocating billions of shillings to herself through Parliamentary Commission members, including former Leader of Opposition (LoP), now Parliamentary Commissioner, Mathias Mpuuga, who acknowledged receiving funds as a “Service Award.”

The allegations rocked social media at the time when Parliament was not sitting. As the House resumed with Ms. Anita Among in the Chair on Friday 15, March 2024 morning, it was anticipated that the Speaker would comment on the allegations during her communication with the chair. She did not.

Despite mounting pressure, Ms. Among ignored the allegations during parliamentary sessions, focusing instead on routine matters. She instead directed that the House proceed with receiving the Ministerial Statements and Budget Estimates for the Financial Year 2024/2025 for scrutiny.

Realizing that the Speaker was about to “sweep the matter under the carpet,” the outspoken Rwemiyaga Member of Parliament, Theodore Ssekikubo challenged Ms. Among to address the issue, emphasizing Parliament’s responsibility for oversight.

“We are having a big problem, we cannot sit here as if nothing wrong has happened. I was amazed that in your communication you did not make a mention of the grave allegation against Parliament where I belong as member,” Mr. Ssekikuubo charged.

“Can we have a clarification about the allegations in the media so that we take a corrective decision and clean ourselves. We are taking oversight role on other arms and other institutions of Government, but when it comes to us, we want to hide it under the carpet and it is a shame to this House. What happened?” added Mr. Ssekikuubo

However, Ms. Among dismissed the accusations as hearsay, attributing her troubles partly to her role in the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.

“I will never give you answers based on hearsay, on rumormongering. And we aren’t going to run this House on rumormongering. Me to answer you on hearsay, on things you have cooked on social media, because I have said no to bum shafting I will not,” Ms. Among said.

Also Read: Chris Obore justifies Speaker Among’s silence amid corruption allegations

Calls for debate on the matter were rebuffed, including requests from the Leader of the Opposition (LoP), Joel Ssenyonyi, who highlighted the Commission’s delayed response. Allegations of financial misappropriation, including large sums awarded to individuals and a local radio station in Ms. Among’s constituency, continue to raise concerns.

“There has been deafening silence from this Institution regarding the issues raised by the people and like we are saying, we are a people centered Parliament. I have seen the Spokesperson of this Parliament (Chris Obore) on some TV and Radio stations confirming some, saying some are partially correct, some of these allegations are exaggerated. But this institution, which is a people centered Parliament hasn’t come out comprehensively, unequivocally, to explain itself to the people, to account to the people of Uganda,” said Joel Ssenyonyi.

Following a social media campaign and whistleblower reports, the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Beti Kamya Turwomwe, acknowledged the seriousness of the allegations and initiated inquiries.