COSASE Asks Ugx 6 Billion Beneficiaries To Refund Money
A House committee that inquired into the payment of Ugx 6 billion to 42 government officials for winning a tax oil case in London wants the beneficiaries to refund the monies.
Parliament’s Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) committee was instructed by Parliament in January this year to investigate the payment of the monies to the officials, said to have participated in the arbitration case between government and Heritage Oil and Gas in a London court.
The committee was tasked to investigate claims that the officials, through the Uganda revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General, Doris Akol, solicited for the payment from President Yoweri Museveni, contrary to standard practices of rewarding public officers.
The committee, chaired by Abdu Katuntu, recommends that all the funds paid out of the URA account to the beneficiaries of the “handshake” should be refunded with immediate effect.
According to the committee report, the funds were for activities budgeted for under the URA budget and was expenditure not budgeted for, therefore a diversion of the Ugx 6 billion without lawful authority.
In its explanation, the committee noted that the payment of the Ugx 6 billion was done without the knowledge of the URA Board, which was in contravention of Section 16 of the URA Act, a matter which the URA Board chairman, Simon Kagugube confirmed to the committee, when he appeared before them to discuss the payments.
The committee further noted that during its meeting with President Museveni at State House, Entebbe over the payment, he affirmed that he had endorsed the handshake to the officials.
However, the legislators said that while the President’s approval of the handshake was bonafide, it was an error of judgment.
The committee further recommended that all officers who flouted the law should be held accountable and the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) institute investigations to establish the culpability and possible offices against the officials.
During investigations of the presidential handshake, several government officials, including the IGG, Irene Mulyagonja and Uganda Law Society President, Francis Gimara, and legislators raised concern over the absence of a clear criteria for rewarding public officials.
In its recommendations, the committee has tasked government to come up with a bill within 90 days to regulate and streamline the Presidential donations budget.
Parliament last month rejected a Ugx 53.8 billion supplementary budget, which included the Ugx 6 billion bonus payment to the government officials. The Budget committee, in its report, said the approval of the funds was deferred pending the COSASE probe conclusion.
The COSASE report recommended that the supplementary budget is rejected because the virement created a liability, infringing Section 22 of the Public Finance Management Act.
The committee also recommended that Parliament revisits Section 8 of the Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production Act 2013 with a view to amend it and provide technical people to be signatories to the Production Sharing Agreements (PSAs) between government and oil companies.
During its interface with the President, the committee learnt that former Energy Minister, Syda Bbumba signed an agreement, waiving $157 million in taxes for Tullow Oil Company.
Katuntu stated in the report that Bbumba did not have authority to waive tax in that transaction and her action of not having read the agreement before signing was irregular.
The committee did not however recommend action against the former minister.