Justice Ministry Officials Defend Roles in Oil Tax Case
Three officials in the Ministry of Justice have defended themselves against claims that they illegally and irregularly received part of the Ugx 6 billion reward for their contribution towards government’s victory in an oil tax case in London.
The committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) for a second day running interfaced with officials from the ministry including Solicitor General, Francis Atoke, Harriet Lwabi, Director Legislative Drafting and Christopher Gashirabake, Director Legal Advisory Services.
Former Attorney General, Fred Ruhindi also appeared before the committee for a second time, to explain his role in the arbitration case between Heritage Oil and Gas and government, in which $434 million was awarded to Uganda by the international arbitration court in London.
Ruhindi was tasked by the committee, chaired by Bugweri MP, Abdu Katuntu to give an account of his role in the case, in which he received Shs 100 million as part of the non-core staff.
In his explanation, Ruhindi explained that his role in the case in his capacity as Deputy Attorney General was to deputise his boss then, Peter Nyombi.
“When you are a deputy, you are to deputise and when you are called, you are on reserve team,” Ruhindi told the MPs.
He stated that he did not lead the team to London. He also stated that while he viewed his role in the case as extraordinary, the achievement in having the $434 million saved by government was extraordinary.
Francis Atoke, the Solicitor General, on the other hand said the team, including spent long hours in office handling the case, including perusing through Heritage Oil’s claims, preparing and perusing through government’s statements of defence among others.
Atoke told the MPs that this required him to study the documents until late in the night on some occasions.
The same statement was made by Christopher Gashirabake, the Director Legal Advisory Services.
Harriet Lwabi said that as acting Solicitor General then, she assisted the lead counsel on legal research on all the laws and cases that the arbitration entailed, assisted with preparation, review and perusal of government defense in the hearings and prepared grounds to support the application for bifurcation.
Lwabi also reviewed and perused through Heritage’s counter memorial on jurisdiction and its rejoinder memorial on jurisdiction.
She further said she perused through the amended notices of arbitration and government counter memorials on merit.
She also participated in document production, requested for by the claimant in the range of 200 documents, as well as participated in pre-hearing conference calls and video conference calls during the hearings in London.
“This was a case of exceptional importance to Uganda and as a team, we embraced this case because it was a significant case for government,” Lwabi stated.
However legislators including Katuntu and Kabale Municipality MP, Aja Baryayanga dismissed their claims, stating that the roles they played were part of their ordinary duties and did not deserve to be paid.
The committee is expected to meet the Inspector General of Government (IGG) on Friday.