By Max Patrico Ocaido
Massive plot to exonerate Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija over allegations of misappropriating $200m (about Shs720bn) loan that was meant for National Medical Stores (NMS) to procure medical supplies has leaked.
MPs on Tuesday put minister Kasaija to the 'sword' to explain why he along with the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi 'duped' Parliament and 'fraudulently' received the Shs720bn loan in guise of giving it to NMS for procurement of medical supplies.
Whereas the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in its investigation recommended parliament to censure Kasaija and fire Muhakanizi, ministers have reportedly started lobbying and pleading with MPs to save their fellow minister from the catastrophe that may befall him today (Wednesday) when Speaker Rebecca Kadaga is set to make a ruling after the Tuesday debate on the committee report. The loan was procured from Eastern and Southern African trade and Development Bank (PTA).
It has emerged that as soon as plenary ended yesterday at about 7pm, state minister for Housing Chris Baryomunsi, state minister for finance David Bahati and Deputy Government Chief Whip Solomon Silwany, also Bukhooli North MP were seen leading a few other vocal NRM MPs to the Speaker's office.
Before that, Bahati who remained silent as MPs grilled Kasaija yesterday was overheard pleading with another MP in the parliament corridors asking him to defend Kasaija when the matter returns on the floor today.
The MP whose name we shall not reveal now shyly told Bahati that he has not read the report implicating Kasaija and that it would be difficult to defend him. Bahati was then seen dragging the MP aside, assuring him how he will brief him on what to say.
It should also be noted that during yesterday's plenary, ministers available struggled to put up a fight to rescue their own as MPs bitterly castigated him for diverting the money that was meant for medical supplies.
Last week, during a cabinet meeting, Kasaija reportedly asked his fellow ministers to back him up to satisfy the House that the said loan was not diverted or misused. Last month, he attempted to do the same to the NRM caucus sitting at the Office of the Prime Minister, but he received a deaf ear from the legislators who urged him to carry his own cross and account for the monies.
Today, the Speaker is expected to rule on the matter after MPs yesterday debated on the committee report.
In his response yesterday, Kasaija said that there was a lot of spending pressures, when this money came in, but referred the matter to be investigated by the Auditor General since the MPs did not believe his submission that part of the money was given to the right beneficiaries.
"I admit there was a delay in giving NMS money on how and when they wanted it. We did not get the money by false pretense and I have asked the AG to audit because he is the best person now to give us the answer. But I want to give this parliament assurance that no money was diverted or misused," Kasaija said.