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Speaker Kadaga disowns Oulanyah trip to UNAA

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga  (R) and her deputy Jacob Oulanyah 

The feud between the speaker of parliament and her deputy has taken an intriguing turn with Rebecca Kadaga telling The Observer last week that Jacob Oulanyah travelled to the US without her knowledge.

Kadaga said on phone: “I was surprised to meet him in Boston, USA [for the Ugandan North American Association-UNAA] with a parallel delegation. My intention was not to leave the parliamentary speaker’s chair vacant; and it is not me to explain for his mishap.”

She disputed reports that parliament had sponsored 78 MPs to the convention, insisting that only 26 legislators had travelled. UNAA is the largest community organisation for the Ugandan diaspora, often used as a platform to stimulate fellowship among members in North America, Europe and Uganda. The community, which was founded in 1988, split up in recent years following political disagreements.

Without disclosing the total amount spent on the trip, Kadaga said the money was well spent.

“I think with time each MP will disclose what he sourced from the convention in terms of knowledge or property. I for one tried to source hospital beds which will be donated to various hospitals, including one in Kamuli district, when they arrive here next month,” she said. “There are four other beneficial things I will disclose at a later date; so, the money that took us was not poorly spent.”

The two speakers were each entitled to per diem of $720 or Shs 2,401,950 per day while the MPs were entitled to $520 (Shs 1,734,740) per day. The total per diem cost for both speakers was $1,440 (Shs 4,803,900) per day totalling to $8,640 (over 28 million) for the six days the trip lasted.

Another team headed by Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza attended a parallel convention, UNAA Causes, in Los Angeles, California. Oulanyah left for the convention on August 30, a day earlier than Kadaga who set off on August 31 together with other MPs.

Government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa is reported to have travelled to the same event as part of a government delegation while the clerk to parliament Jane Kibirige led a team of six technical staff mainly from the public relations department to run a stall at the convention, and one legal person, to explain legal issues in parliament.

In his Daily Monitor column of September 6, Dr Muniini K. Mulera, a former member of the UNAA executive, suggested that politicians should in future meet their own travel costs to the convention.

“Are Ugandan MPs’ junkets to Diaspora gatherings worth the taxpayer’s money?” he asked and suggested that though Ugandan politicians should continue to attend UNAA conventions, they should foot their costs.

“The presence of Ugandans from home always adds a welcome dimension. However, the thought that the taxpayers underwrite these junkets is difficult to justify.

Contrary to reports in Kampala papers that UNAA has 120,000 members; neither faction of the organisation has even 1,000 members. Membership in UNAA (Boston) is based on payment of a membership fee. UNAA conventions usually attract about 1,000 attendees, the majority coming to socialise rather than to participate in the social, business and political forums,” Mulera wrote.

slubwama@observer.ug

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