COSASE Rejects human rights commission’s refund excuse

This was after Ida Nakiganda, Director Complaints, Investigations and Legal Services at UHRC attributed the failure to hear 1,587 cases in 2022/23, on the lack of funds to compensate the complainants and the witnesses summoned to the Commission.

MPs on the committee of commissions, statutory authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) have rejected explanations by Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), of lack of funds to pay complainants and witnesses transport refunds.

COSASE cited unpaid transport refunds as a reason for the case backlog after MPs questioned the validity of complaints by Kizza Besigye and Robert Kyagulanyi.

This was after Ida Nakiganda, Director Complaints, Investigations and Legal Services at UHRC attributed the failure to hear 1,587 cases in 2022/23, on the lack of funds to compensate the complainants and the witnesses summoned to the Commission while speaking to the COSASE committee.

Nakiganda said, “The complaints within Kampala also require witnesses, it also requires money, it requires witness refund to both our complaints and their witnesses so still, we can’t be able to conduct a session here because it also has costs. Each and every person that is summoned to the Uganda Human Rights Commission Tribunal is given a witness refund.”

This prompted Medard Sseggona (Busiro East) the chairperson of COSASE to ask for evidence of the Commission compensating the Robert Kyagulanyi and Dr. Kizza Besigye, arguing that these aren’t interested in transport refund, but rather justice for the complaints they file.

“If I asked you for evidence you gave (transport refund) to Robert Kyagulanyi or Dr.Kizza Besigye, would you give me that voucher? Yes, or know. That is the point I am making, there are those complainants who aren’t interested in that, they are simply interested in the substantive decision, you delay them and therefore deny them justice even when they don’t want your money. I have represented people for the Commission and you know I have clients who have never even asked for a coin. Where you don’t have money to serve those that need money, would that stop you from serving those that don’t need your money?” said Sseggona.

After initially admitting to COSASE that the UHRC didn’t give both Kyagulanyi and Besigye their transport refund, the Commission later changed its statement noting, “Besigye signed for his transport refund along with his witnesses, Kyagulanyi opted not to take his transport refund, but in the event that transport refund isn’t taken, it is usually banked in Bank of Uganda on the Justice, Law and Order Society (JLOS) account. We have proof that Besigye signed for his transport refund.”

Allan Mayanja a member of the COSASE committe from (Nakaseke Central), asked Mariam Wangadya, Chairperson UHRC to explain if the dismal performance of the Commission could be attributed to the tense working environment, where some Commissioners report to work with guns, as Wangadya had earlier told COSASE in April 2023.

“In the media you said that some members of the Commission come to the meeting with guns, I would like to know, have you disarmed them? Because why I am insisting on this, it might be one of the reasons why the Commission and that is why you have this backlog and it can be seen clearly that some of your members are missing and you don’t have clear information on where they are,” said Allan Mayanja.

Wangadya replied, “I am not in position to know who is armed and who isn’t. I have ever said it (gun remarks) but I have no capacity to tell who is armed or who isn’t and I request to be treated fairly.

Legislators on the Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) protested the decision to shield Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) from commenting about the case of the three MPs accused of soliciting a 20% cut off Commission’s budget after some MPs pointed out loopholes in the Commission’s budget execution practices.

ICYMI: https://charmarnews.com/why-uganda-was-blocked-from-global-human-rights-meetings/

Eddie Kwizera (Bukimbiri County) wondered why the Commission spent 99% of the budget allocated in 2022/23, yet the Commission failed to listen to 1,587 cases, wondering if the Commission has indulged in some lobbying practices over its budget before and why this time around, they reported the three MPs; Paul Akamba (Busiki County), Cissy Namujju (Lwengo DWR) and Yusuf Mutembuli (Bunyole East).

“When you look at their budget, it performs 99% and their cases are partially heard. If you have budgeted and get 99% of the releases, and utilize the money and yet remain with over 1500 cases partially and pending, that one means that either there is poor budgeting internally and of course there is evidence that because of their poor budgeting method, they now attribute it to some MPs to lobby to have an increased budget. Some of the MPs are in prison, which is evidence?” said Kwizera.

However, Ssegona ((Busiro East), who also doubles as Chairperson COSASE cited Rule 76 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament that bars MPs from discussing matters whose proceedings are active in court.

“Where there are live matters in criminal or civil proceedings, those matters of the three MPs and what you are raising as a recording, are substantive matters of evidence in a court of law. I would advise that we wouldn’t discuss them. This Committee will not be prejudiced with regards to issues relating to our Committee, we want to be fair to these witnesses because the recordings that MP Kwizera is talking about isn’t before this Committee, we don’t even know the contents,” said Sseggona.

However, Nathan Itungo (Kasahari South), rejected the argument by Ssegona who demanded to have Mariam Wangadya respond to the queries raised remarking, “When MPs questions are not answered, and the witnesses are here, that means, MPs will be tempted to answer questions outside the press. If the lady is here the question is asked and she has knowledge, let her make a comment, she accepts or denies.”

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