Members of Parliament on the committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) have expressed anger over the absence of a tax assessor on the list of beneficiaries of the Ugx 6 billion presidential handshake.
The committee is currently investigating circumstances under which 42 public officers received Ugx 6 billion as a reward for winning an oil tax case against Heritage Oil and Gas Limited in an international tax tribunal.
The legislators learnt from one of the beneficiaries of the presidential handshake, Robinah Nakakawa, who is the Manager, URA Natural Resource Management Unit, that Bernard Sanya was appointed as a supervisor in the URA Natural resource management unit in May 2010.
“Before that he was actually working as an officer and used to consult me on most of the technical issues so I started working with him and whenever we had some instances where we wanted someone to assist, he used to come in so handy,” Nakakawa told the MPs.
She further revealed that Sanya was instrumental in determining the $404 million capital gains tax slapped on Heritage after it sold 50% of its stake to Tullow.
“A decision had been taken to transact this transaction. We had to look for someone to initiate this into the system. He raises the assessment and it is reviewed by another person,” Nakakawa explained.
However, her explanation drew anger from legislators, including Abdu Katuntu, Bugweri County MP, and committee chairman, who wondered how one of the core team in assessing the taxes in the transaction was not included on the rewards list.
“There is an assessor who raises the assessment. He owns it by actually signing it. So there is another supervisor checks it…I am finding it hard to believe that you have to look for somebody to sign,” Katuntu queried.
Katuntu wondered how Nakakande benefitted from the bonus payment yet Sanya, who also participated in the process, did not.
“We have to talk to Sanya Bernard. It may not be about Sanya alone but the fairness of the whole thing and at a policy level does the whole institution benefit from it?” Katuntu asked.
In response, Nakakawa said while a team reviewed the assessment, but did not have a hand in the drafting of the list of beneficiaries.
“I did not come up with that list of the beneficiaries. It was not my responsibility,” she added. During the same meeting, MPs tasked the URA officials to produce the final ruling of the court case.
Aruu County MP, Odonga Otto revealed to the committee that there was information that government did not win any case, rather opted for an out of court settlement.
“Which case of the two did we win and what is the exact description court gave to show that Uganda won this case?” Otto queried.
Ali Ssekatawa, the Assistant Commissioner, Litigation explained that the actual award is with the Attorney General’s possession, stating that it is confidential and can only be availed by the office.
The committee will meet URA officials for the third and final interface in the probe on February 3, 2017.