The Constitutional Court has on Wednesday dismissed the case in which Kitgum woman MP Ms Beatrice Anywar and four civil society organizations had sought an indictment against government for the payment of Shs 20million to 8th parliament MPs ahead of approving questionable budgetary supplements during last political campaigns.
Deputy Chief Justice Ms Mpagi Bahigeine, Justices Steven Kavuma, Augustine Nshiimye, Sara Arach Amoko, and Remmy Kasule ruled that the petitioners had failed to adduce “satisfactory evidence” that the money was expended without approval in contravention of constitutional provisions 1(1), (2), 8A, 85(1),(2), 154(1)a and b, 154(2), 159, 164, 90(1)(2 – 40, 94 and the directive principles of state policy.
The judges said courts acted on “credible evidence adduced before them” and “do not indulge in conjecture, speculation, attractive reasoning or fanciful theories.”
The petitioners Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), Ms Beatrice Anywar, Action Aid Uganda, Forum for Women in Democracy and Centre for Public Interest Law had sought declarations that the Sh 20million payment was unconstitutional, unlawful and had applied for orders that the money, Sh 6.2billion in total be refunded by the recipients.
“We have no evidence that any of that money was used by any of the recipients of the same in a way that amounted to abuse of public trust bestowed by the constitution on those MPs… Similarly, no satisfactory evidence has been adduced to show that the money was used … in a way that amounted to the negation of a duty of any such member to prevent wastage of public resources in contravention of the constitutional provisions cited,” the judges said.
Judiciary spokesman and Court of Appeal registrar Mr Elias Kisawuzi delivered a brief version of the judgment, giving a copy of the full judgment to the parties later.
“The act of receiving Shs. 20million was not an abuse and a negation of a public duty and therefore was not in contravention of the Articles of the constitution mentioned. Having held as we have, we find that the petitioners are not entitled to the reliefs sought and accordingly the petition is dismissed for lack of merit,” they also ruled, ordering the parties to bear their own costs each.
The Attorney General was not represented. Lawyer Francis Gimara represented the petitoners. “We shall have to first read the whole judgment before we can determine our next step,” he said.
Other activists in court included Barbara Ntambirweki, and Caroline Adoch (ACODE) and Crispy Kaheru of the Citizens for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CEDU).
The controversial payments, which took the MPs by surprise, came in the middle of campaigns for the 2011 general elections and at a time when government sought huge budget supplementaries, which the opposition criticized as intended to boost the ruling National Resistance Movement campaign. Critics called the payment a “bribe” to compromise the MPs to pass the She 602billion supplementary without question.
Vice President Mr Edward Ssekandi, then speaker of Parliament told journalists he also did not know the source of the money but in a surprise turn, evidence was adduced by government in court that the Clerk to Parliament had originated a written request to the Finance minister applying for additional funds to enable MPs monitor government programmes.