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INSIDE STORY! How MPs Demanded 20% of UNCHR 2024/2025 Budget

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The state has revealed corruption charges against three Ugandan lawmakers accused of soliciting bribes from the head of a government agency. On Wednesday afternoon, the charges were officially unsealed, detailing accusations against Parliament’s Legal Committee Vice Chairperson, Yusuf Mutembuli; Lwengo Woman MP, Cissy Namujju; and Busiki County MP, Paul Akamba.

According to the charge sheet, the MPs allegedly solicited an undue advantage of 20% from the anticipated enhanced budget of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) for the financial year 2024/2025. The funds were solicited from Mariam Wangadya, Chairperson of the UHRC, under the pretext of influencing the Budget Committee of the Parliament of Uganda to increase the UHRC budget.

The prosecution stated that the MPs claimed they could exert improper influence over the Budget Committee’s decision-making process. This purported solicitation occurred on May 13, 2024, at Hotel Africana in Kampala, according to the charges read before the Anti-Corruption Court in Kampala.

On January 8, 2024, Chairperson Wangadya presented the UHRC Budget Framework paper for the Financial Year 2024/2025 to Parliament, accompanied by commissioners, directors, and technical staff. The presentation highlighted the UHRC’s persistent budget shortfalls and the need for an enhanced budget to meet the growing human rights demands in Uganda.

Wangadya emphasized the chronic underfunding of the UHRC, stating that the wage, non-wage, and development budgetary provisions have historically been insufficient. She detailed past budget allocations, noting significant gaps between requested and provided funds:

  • FY 2021/2022: Required Shs72.227bn, provided Shs20.897bn (29%)
  • FY 2022/2023: Required Shs78.811bn, provided Shs20.636bn (26%)
  • FY 2023/2024: Required Shs84.227bn, provided Shs19.572bn (23%)

For FY 2024/2025, the UHRC requested Shs85bn to adequately perform its duties. If the MPs’ solicitation had succeeded, they would have pocketed a staggering Shs17bn.

Wangadya made a heartfelt plea for enhanced staff salaries, revealing that UHRC employees have endured low and uncompetitive pay for over a decade. She highlighted the disparity between UHRC salaries and those in similar institutions, such as the Electoral Commission, and stressed the emotional toll of managing staff expectations amid stagnant wages.

Members of Parliament expressed support for the UHRC’s funding needs. Usuk County MP Ben Okiror acknowledged the commission’s efforts despite financial challenges and called for increased resources to enable the UHRC to fulfill its mandate. Yusuf Mutembuli, one of the accused MPs, urged fellow lawmakers to question the Finance Ministry about its refusal to bridge the commission’s resource gap.

The corruption charges against the MPs underscore the ongoing challenges in ensuring transparent and ethical governance in Uganda. The case highlights the critical need for adequate funding and support for the UHRC to protect and promote human rights effectively.

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