By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
Uganda’s parliament resumed business to debate oil deals government signed with different oil exploration companies. Speaker of the 9th parliament Rebecca Kadaga recalled Parliament from recess even when president Yoweri Museveni had objected to the move. Close to 200 Members of Parliament (MPs) from both political sides signed a petition to debate oil agreements and the Shs11 billion government wants to spend in a $434 million capital gains tax dispute with Heritage Oil Company.
However, the house turned emotive when Youth Member of Parliament for Western Uganda, Gerald Karuhanga tabled documents implicating Foreign Affairs Samuel Kahamba Kuatesa of receiving bribes to a tune of 17 million Euros from oil exploration companies. Kutesa said the documents are forged but Karuhanga defended them as genuine. Karuhanga gave details of bank accounts in Italy and Malta which he said was Kutesa's. A visibly angry Minister Kutesa stood on point of order and denied the corruption allegations. At this point the house almost closed business after a heated exchange between Kutesa and Karahunga as legislators booed the honourable minister. The young MP Karuhanga accused the elderly minister Kutesa of taking a bribe of 17 million Euros through his East African Development Company from an international oil firm.
Lwemiyaga County legislator Theodore Ssekikubo had opened the debate arguing that Uganda stands to lose from oil licenses as they are unfaovourable to Ugandan taxpayer. Ssekikubo urged President Museveni to stay the signing of more oil deals because the deals are not clear and Ugandans would lose. The afternoon stormy debate on oil deals has exposed much rot in Uganda’s nascent oil sector where MPs across the political divide spoke with a united voice on the need for transparency in oil sector.
Parliament heard that government lost in capital gains taxes as companies changed ownership of oil wells. MP Alice Alaso says there have been numerous government officials cutting deals from signatures.
But observation of the debate shows that the MPs were simply faulting government ministers and praising the President. Legislator Theodore Ssekikkubo said President Museveni is understanding but surrounded by corrupt ministers.
Tullow Oil company came under attack as several MPs accused its former country manager Brian Glover of bribing Uganda’s former minister for Energy Hillary Onek with allegedly over 2.5 million Euros. The MPs accused Onek and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi of receiving bribes from Tullow Oil. The Inspector General of Government recently issued Kutesa with criminal summons over corruption related to the organization of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007. Kutesa will be in the court on 13th October this week. The MPs hinted on censuring any ministers found guilty of corruption.
(for live coverage of debate from Uganda Parliament read my tweets @Asinja)