KAMPALA - Three Ugandan ruling party legislators have been charged with corruption for trying to influence a rights body to inflate its budget, according to a charge-sheet seen by Reuters.

Graft is rampant in the east African country but prosecution of top officials, especially those allied to the country's long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, is rare.

The three legislators - Mutembuli, Paul Akamba and Cissy Namujju Dionizia - were charged with corruption late on Wednesday at the High Court in the capital Kampala.

According to the charge-sheet, they were accused of attempting to influence the chairperson of the state-funded Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) to inflate the organisation's 2024/25 (July-June) budget, in return for giving the lawmakers 20% of the inflated budget.

"Mutembuli, Akamba and Dionizia ... solicited an undue advantage ... by asserting that they were able to exert improper influence over the decision-making of the budget committee of parliament of Uganda to increase the UHRC budget," the charge-sheet said.

The three all pleaded not guilty and were remanded to a maximum security prison.

Asuman Basalirwa, one of the suspects' lawyers, told the court that the charges could not be "categorised as grave," and asked for bail.

The judge, Joan Aciro, remanded them until June 14 when they will return for a ruling on the bail application.

Last week, Museveni said he received intelligence that some lawmakers were conniving with officials from government departments to inflate their budgets in exchange for a commission.

The opposition has long criticised Museveni's government for failing to prosecute top officials for graft, saying the government was prioritising political loyalty over accountability in public finances.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by George Obulutsa and Raju Gopalakrishnan)