In a rare show of support, the Judiciary has applauded Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for denouncing a court order blocking a Parliamentary discussion or probe into the infamous Shs 6bn handshake extended to URA lawyers and top government officials involved in the Heritage Oil and Gas tax case.
Kadaga on Tuesday evening angrily threw out issued by Justice Steven Kavuma which sought to “restrain parliament, any person or authority from investigating, questioning or inquiring into the impugned bonus payments and or staying any proceedings of whatever nature.”
She said Parliament was “facing an unprecedented situation where the doctrine of powers is being tested” and that the court order intended to “gag this house” from doing its work.
“Hon members, I cannot accept a situation where a court dictates how we shall speak in this house; how we shall arrange the order paper… This is going to the core of democracy. Court says we should debate, investigate or inquire…that (court order) is not acceptable,” Kadaga fumed.
Realising Kavuma’s order could cause a friction between the judiciary and legislature, a senior judicial official says the order can be vacated.
“The Judiciary has noted that Parliament is aggrieved by the decision of the Constitutional Court and has in that respect directed the Attorney General to take immediate steps to have the order set aside by the Constitutional Court,” said the Judiciary’s Chief Registrar, Paul Gadenya Wolimbwa said in a statement issued Wednesday.
“The action taken by Parliament is commendable and is in accordance with the rule of law because the law allows any aggrieved party to appeal or challenge the decision of a court,” said Gadenya.
Kadaga said Parliament would not debate the national budget, and that “there is no way government will secure money from the consolidated fund without discussing this matter (oil bonus payments).”
He directed the Attorney General to “move to court immediately and get this stupid order vacated.”
Gadenya concurred with Kadaga that it’s not too late to get rid of the court order.
“In this case, the Attorney General is at liberty to appeal against the decision of the court by way of reference to a panel of three justices of the Constitutional Court, and if still dissatisfied, can appeal to the Supreme Court,” said Gadenya.
He further expressed the judiciary’s commitment to “reassure the public that the dispute will be handled in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of Uganda.”
Gadenya’s statement issued on January 11, 2016
The judiciary’s statement is seen by legal experts as a correct step in the right direction to restore ties and protect the independence of Parliament.
Lawyers said it also would end consistent schemes by individuals seeking to suffocate justice and undermine state institutions for selfish interest.
MPs say there was conflict of interest and lack of transparency in the doling out of Shs 6bn bonus payments to URA and other government officials who were involved in the Heritage oil case.
For example, URA Commissioner General Doris Akol requested for the Shs 6bn handshake, facilitated the paper work, determined the amount each would receive including her, and also used URA resources to finance the deal.
Parliament wants to discuss and if possible form committees to investigate the controversial payments.
MP Oboth Oboth warned against efforts to undermine Parliament, saying, the court order must be vacated.
“My fear is that another court order might come tomorrow restricting Members from coming here,” said MP Oboth, exciting the House.
ChimpReports understands that Electoral Commission lawyer Eric Sabiti who petitioned court to block the Parliamentary debate on the oil bonus payments faces disciplinary action.
EC officials told this website that Sabiti unilaterally took the legal decision without consulting management hence tarnishing the electoral body’s image.
, #Rebecca Kadaga