The Auditor General, John Muwanga has revealed that his office will take keen interest in the recent government cash pay out to senior government officials.
The payment of bonuses amounting to Ugx 6 billion to 42 government workers has drawn debate after it emerged that the money was a token of appreciation to the officers for their role in government’s victory in a case in which an oil company dragged government to court challenging its decision to tax about Ugx 1.1 trillion after selling its stake to another oil company, Heritage Oil and Gas Limited.
The case which was heard in London in 2015 concluded with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law dismiss Heritage’s suit, and ordered the company to pay Shs 11 billion to government.
President Yoweri Museveni, following consultations with the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General, agreed last year to pay Shs 6 billion to the officials involved in the case, money which was paid out in August last year.
Some of the recipients of the money include the former Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, former Deputy Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi, Doris Akol, KCCA Executive Director, Jennifer Musisi and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Keith Muhakanizi.
The payments have been widely condemned by members of the public and civil society, with the Auditor General, John Muwanga stating that his office will scrutinize the accounts of URA, which is the institution to account for the money.
Muwanga stated that since the payments were made in the current financial year, its investigations will be reflected in the 2016 Audit report.
“The incident occurred in 2016/2017 financial year so we will certainly audit those amounts and if indeed there are anomalies that are picked up, there will certainly be reported without doubt,” Muwanga assured.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the handover of the Auditor General’s report ending December 2016, which he handed over to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga in her boardroom at Parliament on January 4, 2017.
Meanwhile, some Members of Parliament have raised a red flag over the payments.
While addressing the media at Parliament, Peter Ogwang, Usuk County MP, demanded that the source of the money is investigated. He wondered why the bonuses were paid, yet Parliament had allocated funds amounting to close to Shs 10 billion to facilitate the legal team and officers who were handling the case in London at the time.
Paul Amoru, Dokolo North MP, said the payments are bound to demoralize other staff in the ministries and government agencies involved, due to the selective process of rewarding civil servants.
Jackline Amongin, Ngora Woman MP, demanded that Parliament directs the officers to refund the money, and a committee picked by the Speaker to investigate the matter further.