Members of Parliament (MPs) in Uganda have been asked to pay back monies they approved to themselves as packages they were going to use in fighting the coronavirus pandemic in their constituencies.
A high court in the capital Kampala on Wednesday ruled that the lawmakers would have to return a total of $2.6 million. Each MP received their share through their personal bank account earlier in April.
The money had been planned as part of spending for a coronavirus sensitization project across Uganda. Uganda’s lawmakers have been asked to immediately pay back the monies to the national task force on COVID-19.
One of the earliest opponents of the MPs awarding themselves the package was Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, the lawmaker and presidential hopeful who is also a musician.
Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, called the package “wrong & immoral” and tweeted that “I’ve returned this money & will not partake in a fraud so vile.”
That sentiment was at least shared by the man Ssentamu is trying to upstage in the 2021 election, President Yoweri Museveni.
In a speech prior on Tuesday, Museveni called the action of the lawmakers “morally reprehensible”. The president described what the MPs had done as “falling into a trap”.
Museveni also tried to shut down the argument that the MPs had tried to buy relief items and protective equipment with the money they paid themselves for onward donation to Ugandans.
“The one who bought on their own, the question is who authorized you to buy for the country? The auditor general will come in and audit and say you bought badly so that we sort this. They can pay it back if they spent it wrongly,” said Museveni.
Uganda currently has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and no deaths, but with its 52 recoveries being one of the highest rates in the world. However, the government says it is not resting on its laurels until the country is coronavirus-free.