A visit by MPs to Somalia last month has run into trouble, with the Uganda police at the centre of ‘bribery’ allegations.
Some MPs claim that the trip, with ‘all expenses paid’ by police, was meant to compromise the Defence and Internal Affairs committee, which plays a huge oversight role over the force.
Last Thursday, Butambala MP and Shadow Internal Affairs Minister Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi said the trip was irregularly funded by the police.
“Although Parliament caters for our foreign travels, the police bought air tickets for the members, paid for their full accommodation on top of giving each MP $2500 (Shs 6.2m) in allowances,” Muwanga told Parliament.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who chaired the House till 9pm, did not respond to the charges.
In all, seven MPs, a few police officers, the committee clerk, and journalists travelled to Somalia. The group’s air tickets, according to Muwanga, were picked from the police headquarters by Kigulu South MP Milton Muwuma.
However, Muwuma told us on Saturday that he only picked one ticket for Obongi MP Hassan Kaps Fungaroo.
“That is not true; it is mere politicking, because the only air ticket that was handed to me was that of Hon Fungaroo because he was away,” Muwuma said.
Fungaroo, the shadow minister for Defence, was the only member of the opposition who travelled. The team to Somalia included MPs Benny Namugwanya Bugembe (Mubende Woman, Chairperson), Sarah Nakawunde Temulanda (Mpigi Woman), Peter Okeyoh (Bukooli Islands), Rose Lilly Akello (Kaabong Woman) Peter Eriaku (Kapelebyong) and Muwuma.
The initial list also had Kyadondo East MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda and Kibuku MP Saleh Kamba, who were dropped because, sources said, they were considered “too problematic.” However, committee boss Bugembe dismissed the “problematic” tag.
“Hon Fungaroo is more problematic than those two members… I took members that are more active, because when selecting members for any trip, there are some factors that I put into consideration, like how will a member be of benefit,” Bugembe told The Observer last week.
Ordinarily, parliamentary committees travel abroad to benchmark (learn from other MPs) or to investigate a given matter. But this Somalia trip was premised on neither of the above. Some members of the shadow cabinet claim the police authorities initiated the trip to create allies within the committee.
“There are issues concerning the police that are before the committee; so, they [police] would need the support of the committee members,” Ssemujju said.
Bugembe rejects this, saying MPs were on supervisory duty.
“We have in the past been to Somalia to supervise the operations of our troops. We have been supervising the UPDF, and not the police,” she said.
This particular trip, Bugembe said, was intended to find out whether the police deployment and operations in Somalia were within the framework of the UN resolution on Somalia.
“The police officers there were happy about our visit, and they complained to us about the delayed payment of their salaries back home, and being passed over for promotion when on foreign deployment,” she said.
Bugembe confirmed that police catered for the MPs’ accommodation, but dismissed suggestions this was meant to compromise her team.
“For security reasons, we did not go to a hotel; we had to be within the confines of the AU [Africa Union] peacekeeping mission. Somalia is a dangerous place, we had to abide by the guidelines,” she said and hung up.
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba said last week that she was not aware of the trip. She referred this writer to the director of Interpol, Assan Kasingye.
“If it is about Somalia or any other foreign trip, that is directly under [Kasingye] as director, Interpol,” said Nabakooba, who has since been transferred.
Neither Kasingye nor IGP Kale Kayihura could be reached for a comment.