At least 43 legislators are still in possession of Chogm phones three years after they were asked to surrender them to the government. The MPs were asked to hand in the phones by end of April for disposal.
The Inspector General of government says the MPs must return the phones or face court over the matter.
The order followed an audit of the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting expenses. An investigation by the IGG has revealed that out of 49 Chogm Blackberry phones given to selected MPs, only four devices were returned amid claims from others that the phones were either stolen or lost through unclear circumstances.
Without Police affirmation, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Permanent Secretary, Dr Pat Saamanya, has rejected MPs’ excuses. On July 22, the PS wrote to the acting Clerk to Parliament, Mr Chris Kaija, demanding that MPs surrender Chogm phones for disposal.
“….on the issue of Hon MPs whose devises were either stolen or got lost during the two-year period while in their possession, we request that you submit to us the original copies of Police reports,” Dr Saamanya’s letter reads in part.
In his letter, Dr Saamanya also confirmed receipt of some four Blackberries from Nathan Igeme Nabeta (Jinja), Edward Kafufu (Kigulu North), Nandala Mafabi (Budadiri West) and Theopista Ssentongo (Workers). The Clerk to Parliament, Mr Aeneas Tandekwire has also returned his.
At the peak of an inquest into the misuse of Shs500 billion in Chogm funds, Public Accounts Committee ordered ICT ministry to recover Chogm phones from, ministers, MPs and other senior government officials after it emerged that out of 291 Chogm phones, 235 devices were still unaccounted for.
A local news paper obtained documents confirming delivery of the phones in question to MPs. In October 2007 ICT ministry delivered 13 Blackberry devises, including one for Speaker Edward Ssekandi, his deputy Rebecca Kadaga and the junior Lands Minister Asuman Kiyingi.
On November 19, 2007 another batch of 30 phones were sent to MPs including the one for the junior Local Government Minister Pereza Ahabwe and Maj Gen (Rtd) Jim Muhwezi among others. Some MPs like Budama West MP, William Oketcho, picked their phones directly from the ICT ministry. However, even after the Chogm summit (on October 23 2008); the Office of the Government Chief Whip received two Blackberry phones.
On March 31, 2008 two devices model 8800 were sent to the opposition leader, Prof Ogenga Latigo and Lira Municipality MP, Jimmy Akena. Another device was on August 15, 2008 forwarded to opposition Chief Whip Kasiano Wadri.
For the 291 devices, taxpayers paid over Shs400m and a monthly service licence of $50 (about Shs100,000) per month for four months on each device, which ended on February 29 2008.
Meanwhile, Dr Saamanya told MPs last week that he had instituted a team to handle the disposal process, pending guidance from the government valuer to ascertain the price.
In a preliminary March 2010 evaluation report, the ICT ministry recommended that the Blackberry phones acquired at Shs1.3 million be sold at Shs576, 000 each
Complied by Gerald Bareebe