Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, on Wednesday apologised to legislators for what they have always termed as “insufferable arrogance” by Finance ministry officials.
The MPs had summoned Muhakanizi to appear before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee [PAC] over the missing Shs736bn meant for procurement of medicine at National Medical Stores.
“All the accounting officers are crying that you have taken all the powers of the Parliament and you don’t communicate. Parliament has decided that you come and explain yourself. You need to reflect on your conduct Mr Muhakanizi,” PAC members told the treasury boss in a heated session.
Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga, reminded Muhakanizi that it was unfortunate for his team to imagine that they have no other things to do.
“We are occupying public offices. This nonsense from finance must stop. If you are a patron of your junior officers, you’re not our patron,” Mpuuga told off Muhakanizi.
He went on: “We need another equivocal explanation from Muhakanizi on what his role is to the ministry and to the country.”
The committee said it was not pleased by the way Muhakanizi has been conducting himself.
“You are arrogant.”
The treasury boss then ate humble pie and lowered his head before legislators.
“I want to apologise for any utterances which were wrong. I’m sorry. I was surprised by the statements,” Muhakanizi said, quite humbly.
The finance official said he was misquoted by the journalist.
“I was answering a journalist and not MPs. I told him that those who said money is lost should ask Auditor General to investigate.”
He went on: “I’m a civilized person and if what I said was interpreted as talking about MPs, I apologise.”
On June 5, 2015, The Daily Monitor ran a story in which, Muhakanizi was quoted, saying the planned investigations by parliament into the use of the PTA loan were misdirected.”
He instead advised parliament to ask the Inspectorate of Government or the Auditor General to conduct the investigations.
The same story also quoted Kenneth Mugaba, the Director Budget saying “There is nothing to probe; may be they (MPs) just want a trip to Nairobi, Europe but there is really nothing to probe.”
Muhakanizi says he is going to take a disciplinary action against the Finance ministry officials involved.
“What moral authority do you have to discipline others when it’s you who has instilled this behaviour? You should resign,” the MPs insisted.
Karuhanga grills Muhakanizi
The Vice Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) made reference to the comments made by Muhakanizi and the Director Budget, Kenneth Mugambe, in an article titled, “MPs summon top Finance officials over Shs720b loan” published in the Daily Monitor on Monday 5th June, 2017 as disrespectful and offensive to MPs and the institution.
He made these remarks during the PAC inquiry meeting with the Bank of Uganda Governor, Tumusiime Mutebile; Muhakanizi; the Auditor General, John Muwanga; the Accountant General, Lawrence Semakula, and the Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Diana Atwine; to explain how the Ushs340b of the Ushs720b loan meant for medicines and rural electrification was used.
Karuhanga said that there is need to respect Parliament. “In the article published on Monday, you said that MPs should ask the Auditor General to audit the money if we think it is lost, as if it is not our mandate to investigate government agencies? Furthermore, the Director of Budget in your Ministry alleged that we are idle and just want trips; something he finds particularly demeaning and disrespectful,” he said.
He further noted that, “We are very displeased with the way you have been conducting yourselves and this is not the first time it is happening. You need to check your behaviour as a Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Finance,” adding that, “Your behaviour can be contested in law because there are rules of procedure that give us the authority to clamp down on civil servants who insult MPs.”
Hon. Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West) added that there is a tendency for civil servants to undermine MPs thinking that they are Senior Six drop outs.
“Please do not undermine us because we all have these qualifications; accord us the respect we give you because we never insult you, you must command decorum,” Ssewungu said, adding that, “there is a reason why everyone complains about you all the time, this should prompt you to reflect on your behaviour.”
In addition, Hon. Jesca Ababiku asked Muhakanizi to be graceful in the way he conducts himself around his colleagues and his juniors.
“You barked at one of your juniors while commanding them to introduce themselves to the committee; that is no way to conduct yourself because you are painting the wrong picture to them and they too can never respect anyone,” she noted.
Hon. Mpuuga furthermore said that Muhakanizi and his team are scrappy since they do not want to account for your actions.
“What is so difficult with you coming here and responding to our queries? Parliament has the mandate of oversight over you and that is something you must accept as a public officer,” Mpuuga said.
Mpuuga also asked that the Secretary to the Treasury reprimands his disrespectful officers.
“I want to be on record that I apologise for any misdemeanour and I am going to ask the Director Budget to write an apology to the Speaker and MPs; however, he said that he was misquoted by the newspapers,” Muhakanizi said in response.
Karuhanga said that the committee will invite the Director Budget to come and make a formal apology to Parliament.