Yasiin Mugerwa Members of Parliament yesterday nearly exchanged punches in a parliamentary committee after they disagreed on whether Umeme should reveal the details of the agreement it signed with the government. As rowdy MPs screamed and almost dragged each other to the ground in full public glare, it emerged that Umeme, a private power firm, has taken more than $8.4 million (about Shs16 billion) in payment for alleged unpaid energy bills for unidentified ministries without any verification. While some MPs led by the committee chairperson, Ms Winnie Masiko (NRM Rukungiri), backed Umeme, others led by Henry Banyenzaki (NRM, Rubanda West) and Geoffrey Ekanya (FDC, Tororo) expressed concern that Umeme does not offer any fundamental changes from the former UEB. While presenting details from Uganda Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (UEDCL), in a committee meeting with top Umeme officials yesterday, Ms Anifa Kawooya (NRM, Ssembabule), said: Umeme has picked our money from the Escrow Account without the knowledge of the government. She added: For instance, in 2007/2008, they used the account to offset themselves where government ministries fail to pay their bills and at the same time get money from the account for investment and this is criminal. Investigations by the parliamentary committee on natural resources has revealed that Umeme got more than Shs16 billion from the Escrow Account [an account created for UEDCL to collect debts from Umeme], whose details are not known to the government. UEDCL collects money from Umeme on behalf of the government to service the $26.3 million (about Shs60 billion) power distribution debt. However, the committee heard that Umeme sometimes withholds the payments to Escrow Account through unclear circumstances. But in his response, the new Umeme Managing Director, Mr Charles Chapman, appealed for leniency, saying the company was cleaning up its act.