MPs Direct Auditor General To Probe Ugx 1.3 Trillion Whereabouts
The committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) wants the Auditor General to investigate where Ugx 1.3 trillion for the Petroleum Fund is.
The committee’s directive stems from failure by officials from the Ministry of Finance to explain where the funds are.
In March 2015, Parliament passed the Public Finance Management Act 2015, establishing the Petroleum Fund, where all revenues from the oil and gas sector towards government would be deposited. Early this week, the committee heard that the ministry failed to transfer Ugx 1.3 trillion from government’s oil revenue accounts to a newly created Petroleum Fund.
Instead, after the petroleum account was opened in June 2015, the Ugx 1.3 trillion that was on government oil accounts was transferred to the consolidated account, with a green light from the Solicitor General.
The committee asked them to return with a detailed answer on March 10, 2017. However when tasked to give the explanation, the officials instead presented different figures.
The Accountant General, Lawrence Ssemakula told the MPs that the total amount of money meant for the Petroleum Fund was Ugx 1.6 trillion and that the Ugx 1.3 trillion was part of these funds.
However, the legislators rejected this, insisting that the funds were supposed to be the minimum balance in the petroleum fund.
Matia Kasaija, the Finance Minister assured the MPs that the money was available on the fund. Currently, petroleum fund shillings account has Ugx 10 billion shillings and $72.5 million deposited onto it.
The ministry officials were also quizzed after it emerged that Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, the law firm contracted by government to defend it against Heritage Oil and Gas Company in a London arbitration court, was paid by two government entities.
Semakula told the MPs that in 2014, URA was given Ugx 2.5 billion to replenish funds from the tax refund budget paid to Curtis as legal fees in relation to the arbitration case.
However, committee chairman, Abdu Katuntu revealed that in June 2014, Parliament passed a supplementary budget, giving Ugx 10.9 billion to the Ministry of Justice to also facilitate legal fees for the same law firm.
Katuntu said this was double payment and should have been only handled by the Ministry of Justice, which procured the services of the law firm.
He further directed that the Auditor General looks into the accounts of both URA and the Justice ministry.