Andrew Mwenda Supports Shs 6 Billion Bonus Payment

Published 3 years ago -

Journalist Andrew Mwenda has defended government’s decision to pay Ugx 6 billion to 42 government officers for their role in the oil arbitration case.

Mwenda, who appeared before the Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) committee today February 27, 2017, told MPs that it is very important for government to recognize excellence, even in extraordinary terms whenever it is done.

“A significant number of public officials in Uganda, when exercising their mandate, place their personal interests above the interest of this country,” Mwenda told the committee, which he wrote to, seeking its audience to give his views on the matter.

He revealed that there were attempts by some of the oil companies to intimidate Uganda Revenue Authority to discontinue with the pursuance of the $434 million capital tax gains slapped against Heritage Oil and Gas, after it sold its stake to Tullow Oil.

Mwenda said the oil companies and some government officials warned URA that the tax assessment would discourage other investors from coming to the country to invest in the oil sector.

The journalist insisted that the government officials deserved the award for their work. He however insisted that government creates incentives for public officials who do exemplary work and they benefit from the awards.

“This money was not paid because of extra work done but because of an extraordinary victory. It does not matter if these people had worked 500 hours a day and even if they had worked for an hour a day, they were being paid for victory,” Mwenda said.

He also noted that while the selection of beneficiaries was unfair and the amount of money and procedural irregularities were made, the public and Parliament should look at the work that the team did and the outcome, which was the victory in saving the $434 million from Heritage.

He insisted that the cash bonus was deserved because it was no promised.

On whether the President was right to give the bonus payment, Mwenda said as a Fountain of Honour, it is within his right to give everything, including gifts.

However committee chairman, Abdu Katuntu disputed this, explaining that the President, even as Fountain of Honour, must give within the confines of the law.

The Elders’ Forum also appeared before the committee on February 27, 2017, led by chairman, Justice James Ogoola. Accompanied by former Prime Minister, Paul Etiang and former Ambassador Bernadette Olowo Freers, Ogoola had requested that they make presentation in camera.

However Katuntu declined to grant them the request, insisting that all submissions before the committee had to be made public.

Etiang, in his submission, said the system of rewards has been on for more than 50 years and was not new.

Olowo on her part tasked government to come up with a transparent rewards system to avoid such backlash.

“The reward in itself is not wrong. It is the manner in which it was given and that manner, one of it is not the President or minister did not get up and say these people have done a good job and deserve a reward. These people solicited for the rewards, weighed their worth and rewarded themselves,” Olowo said.

Ogoola, on his part, noted that the rewards policy then during his term in public service was an extraordinary exercise to reward extraordinary work performed by extraordinary people during extraordinary circumstances.

“Money has its place but was always a token. We do not know of any kind of mandatory recognition which goes to three, four, five or six times one’s own reward of salary. If you do that, then the perception would be that you are rewarding someone who already has a reward of a salary, an allowance and perks. It begins to look a little awkward,” Ogoola opined.

The Uganda Law Society (ULS), led by its President Francis Gimara also made a presentation, in which they criticized the office of the Attorney General for what it termed as conflict of interest in the cash bonus payments.

Gimara stated that the office of the AG, being the chief legal advisor of the President, should not have involved itself in the payment of bonuses, instead they should have guided on whether the cash bonus was legal and right.

He said the office should always remain independent from such incidences of conflict of interest.

“The office of the AG on this one, it was a terrible case of conflict of interest. It was never going to be possible that the principle legal advisor, who has organized himself to benefit from this would give the President independent legal advice,” Gimara advised.



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