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MPs Reject Museveni's Pleas On Shs60m Cars

Kampala, Dec 30, 2006 (The Monitor/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- The rift between President Museveni and the MPs over the Shs20 billion for cars has deepened. Parliament sources said that after the Thursday incident, Museveni made individual telephone calls to National Resistance Movement MPs, proposing a meeting with him in Rwakitura, but the MPs have vowed not to meet him.

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On Thursday, the MPs nearly rioted at Parliament after Cabinet withdrew its earlier decision to borrow Shs10.32 billion for purchase of 4WD cars for the legislators. The Speaker was forced to adjourn the House after MPs refused to handle any matter other than the money for their cars.

Parliament sources said that the President called several Movement MPs asking them not to adjourn, but his demands were not complied with. Some of the MPs whom the President called told Sunday Monitor that Museveni was furious that MPs were putting pressure on the government yet they are earning a lot of money.

The MPs said he suggested that instead of cars, MPs should be given three bedroom houses. But the MPs have scoffed at the suggestion, saying Parliament owns Uganda Club apartments in Nakasero but that the President hijacked the premises and handed it over to soldiers.

"Uganda Club was meant for MPs to stay in especially those who come from far. They would stay there as they find accommodation but soldiers have taken it," a senior Movement MP said.

Senior sources at Parliament said the MPs whom the President rang include David Guma Gumisiriza (Ibanda North), Henry Banyenzaki (Rubanda County) and James Kakooza (Kabula County).

The sources said Museveni reportedly told the MPs that he would call for reduction of their emoluments if they did not stop "stampeding" the executive.

He reportedly said that Shs7 million that each MP takes home on average per month is a lot of money.

Mr Gumisiriza did not answer calls to his mobile phone on Friday evening. But Banyenzaki said: " I won't discuss with you whether he (Museveni) rang me or not but it is the right of MPs to get facilitation. He (Museveni) is calling others to go there (Rwakitura) but no one is going to waver."

"We recognise that we have challenges like poor roads and hospitals need facelifts. But resources are wasted on subsidising collapsing companies."

He said the MPs would not succumb because the executive was using the vehicle scheme to hoodwink the public that legislators were greedy.

Banyenzaki said that State House is one of the lavish spenders in government.

"State House budget is three times that of Parliament. If State House cooks can also drive 4WD cars, what is wrong with MPs asking for cars?" he asked.

Banyenzaki said that the acting Presidential Press Secretary Joseph Tamale Mirundi was recently given a car worth Shs100m.

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But Tamale disputed the claim. "It is not true; they (MPs) are talking from a point of ignorance," Tamale said but declined to disclose the worth of his new car. "That is immaterial. My role is to sit in the car and be driven," he charged.

Banyenzaki said that government has budgeted Shs200 billion to buy cars for bureaucrats and Shs10b for their office tea this financial year.

"Government should direct money into priority areas. Why do they budget for new cars and don't want MPs to ask for cars?" he said. As a measure to cut down on government expenditure, Banyenzaki suggested that government stops buying cars for public officials and instead encourage them to buy their own and government only pays them mileage.

"We are visiting Rwanda to see how they are managing it. Ministers in Rwanda drive their own cars and are paid mileage," he said.

"We will go to Rwanda privately. We only need to inform the Speaker," he said.

The MP said that together with Sam Lyomoki, John Babiha and Godfrey Ekanya, they would table a Private Members Bill seeking to stop purchase of cars for government bureaucrats.

After Museveni's phone calls to MPs yielded no fruits, the operatives from Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) also telephoned some legislators over the same issue.

Sunday Monitor has learnt that CMI operatives rang nearly all Movement MPs who spoke in the House on Thursday. Some of the MPs said the CMI operatives were trying to intimidate them.

"We are heading to turbulent political times. There is going to be a serious collision between Parliament and the executive," a top government official told Sunday Monitor.

One of the MPs whom CMI rang is James Kakooza. When contacted on Friday, he first asked how Sunday Monitor learnt that CMI operatives had called him, but he downplayed the incident, saying it did not amount to intimidation.

"They wanted to find out what the problem was. They just wanted an explanation from me as an NRM member," he said.

"They were saying that one arm of government should not paralyse the other," Kakooza said. However, he said it was improper for the executive to call MPs to discuss and then turn against them as if Parliament is not important.

Other MPs told Sunday Monitor that the First Lady and Ruhaama MP Janet Museveni did not vote for adjournment of the House on Thursday.

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"Janet voted against MPs because she already has a convoy of vehicles and a budget of her own. She does not need a car," an NRM MP said on condition of anonymity.

Some MPs said State House had already exhausted its budget of Shs58 billion for this financial year. They said that instead of asking for a supplementary budget through Parliament, State House picked Shs180 billion directly from Bank of Uganda. The claim could not be independently verified.

"The President is also in the process of giving Apparels Tri-Atar Shs25 billion even when everyone is saying the factory is useless," an MP said.

Senior NRM officials alleged that 20 per cent of the Defence budget is spent on guarding the President alone through the PGB.

But Tamale Mirundi said President Museveni is against extravagance. " On the issue of the budget, I will consult the State House Comptroller. But what I know is that Mzee is against wastage," he said.

Tamale said the President knows MPs are pressuring government because they face pressure for money from their electorates.

"Mzee believes that politicians should be mindful of the situation in the country. He himself does not give money to voters because he is giving them a service," Tamale said.

He said the President wants to talk to the NRM's National Executive Committee to start a process of drafting a law that bars MPs from participating in fundraising functions.

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