URA: We Did Not Solicit For Presidential Handshake
Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has distanced itself from claims that it spearheaded the payment of Ugx 6 billion as a reward to 42 government officials for their role in winning an oil tax case against Heritage Oil and Gas Company.
URA’s Commissioner General, Doris Akol, while appearing before the Commissions, Statutory Authority and State Enterprises (COSASE) committee on January 25, 2017, instead named the Attorney General’s office as the one which handled the Ugx 6 billion payment.
Akol, who was accompanied by a host of URA officials, including Commissioner of Litigation, Ali Ssekatawa, one of the beneficiaries of the bonus, revealed that former Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi was the drafter of the first list of 24 beneficiaries set to benefit from the bonus.
“The appreciation which we called the presidential handshake was requested by the Hon. Attorney General, in a reminder of a promise made by his Excellency to the team on winning the case, he would appreciate the team,” Akol told the legislators, who did not buy her explanation.
Akol stated that the list was later amended to include a team of 22 core staff, 12 non-core staff and 8 support staff to make the 42-man beneficiary team.
When pressed by MPs to give information on her role in soliciting for the reward, through a letter she wrote to President Museveni in May 2015, Akol stated that she had no hand in soliciting for the reward.
She said that when the final list was drawn, it was agreed that the core members were to receive Shs 200 million each, while the non-core team members were accorded Shs 100 million and support team members were to be paid Shs 40 million.
In his presentation, Ssekatawa told the MPs that during a meeting with President Museveni, the list was presented, but he instead suggested that all people who were involved in the arbitration process right from the beginning to the end must be included to benefit from the presidential handshake.
He out rightly denied allegations that URA had solicited for the reward from the President.
“It is the President who called us for the meeting and told us since we had done a good job; he was going to give us a reward. The Commissioner General was only directed to facilitate the payments to beneficiaries,” Ssekatawa explained.
When pressed to provide documentation and minutes of the minutes with the President, Ssekatawa said he could not recall the dates of the meeting and who chaired the meeting, which reportedly took place at the President’s Office.
He recalled that the meeting was attended by Ruhindi, Solicitor General, Francis Atoke, Peter Muliisa, George Kalemera and Martin Mwabushya. Committee chairman, Abdu Katuntu and other MPs directed that URA furnishes certified copies of the meetings, list of all beneficiaries by January 27th.
The committee is expected to resume its probe with URA next week on Monday.