COSASE meets officials from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) on #6bnHandshake
Discussed in the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Entreprises on March 7th, 2017
The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises met with officials from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) led by the Minister, Hon. Matia Kasaija. The other officials from the ministry included; Mr. Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the treasury, Mr. Mugambe Kenneth, Director Budget in MoFPED and Mr. Ssemugooma. The meeting was in fulfilment of the mandate of the committee to probe into the oil cash bonanza (6 billion handshake). The meeting was chaired by Hon. Katuntu and attended by some members of the committee.
Hon Katuntu, before delving into the business planned, relayed an instruction from the Speaker of Parliament, Hon Rebecca Kadaga to the Ministry officials. She requested that an explanation in writing, be given as to why the supplementary expenditure to National Medical Stores (NMS) for Hepatitis B as supplied by Parliament in 2015/16 had not been received in whole. According to the Speaker, during a visit to NMS was informed that only UGX 3 Billion of the 11 Billion parliament approved had been disbursed. Hon. Katuntu advised that the expenditure would become nugatory as all the 3 doses of vaccines required could not be bought and individuals who had already been administered with the first dose would have to start all over again causing losses.
The order of business for the meeting related to term of Reference 5 of the probe which requires the committee to investigate so far, how much government had received in the Petroleum fund (meant for all oil revenue). The fund was established by the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 to safe guard against using the money for ordinary budgetary expenditure. As explained by the Ministry officials, a proportion oil revenue had already been committed to the consolidated Fund before the law came into force. It’s at this point that the contention in the meeting grew.
The committee heard that after the enactment of the Act, the money ear marked as oil revenue stood at UGX 1.367 trillion, however, it was not committed into the petroleum fund. Mr. Mugambe told the committee that, while the money wasn’t transferred to petroleum fund, it was used for the purpose of Infrastructure development in line with the deliberate cabinet policy. The money between 2013/14 and 2014/15 was used for among other things, Supervision of Isimba and Karuma by Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) officials and also construction of power transmission lines under the Uganda Electricity Transmission Company (UETCL). When asked why the money was not transferred contrary to the law, Mr. Semugooma told the Committee the Solicitor General advised that the law does not act in retrospect, an explanation the committee was clearly not comfortable with. Although a 5 minute break was given to MoFPED officials to gather their thoughts around what transpired, it did no yield satisfactory explanations.
Hon Katuntu explained that the questions were not a witch hunt but a means to establish any anomalies in the petroleum fund procedures. He further explained that the petroleum funds are explicitly for development and not recurrent expenditures and that’s why it was imperative to establish how, when and what the money was used for. As the meeting wore on, Hon Katuntu asked for a clear explanation of expenditure of the money. He asserted that if the money was used for what it was meant for even when not in the petroleum fund was not bad. He asked the officials to acknowledge if a mistake had been made in interpretation of the law and the outcome was no cause for alarm as recommendations were being sought for possible future occurrences.
The committee stood over the matter to in a bid to make head way but the officials from MoFPED could not satisfactorily explain to the committee the post PFMA period in relation to the Fund even after being given another 5 minute break by the committee.
Hon Katuntu decided to adjourn the meeting to Friday 10th March to allow for the officials from MoFPED to provide thoroughly disintegrated figures for the Petroleum fund and its corresponding activity. He justified this by saying numbers are supposed to be self-explanatory so as to minimize confusions from verbal explanations. As the meeting drew to a close, he reiterated his earlier communication from the Speaker to MoFPED officials in regard to the funds for Hepatitis B.