President Yoweri Museveni has spoken out for the first time on the Shs 6 billion paid to 42 government officials as bonuses for their role in an oil tax case in London.
In the wake of public outcry and scrutiny after it emerged that the 42 officials, including URA Commissioner General, Doris Akol, UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina and former Attorney General, Peter Nyombi, received the payments in August 2016, President Museveni said the payments were justified after Uganda saved over Shs 2 trillion following the case against Heritage Oil and Gas Limited.
While speaking to Members of Parliament from the ruling NRM party during a caucus meeting at State House, Entebbe on January 16, 2017, Museveni however said the officials thwarted numerous attempts to be bribed in order to drop the case.
He however said concerns raised by Parliament and members of the public on the procedures followed in paying out the money need to be scrutinized.
Last week, Parliament was set to debate a motion, tabled by Mbarara Municipality MP, Michael Tusiime, seeking a parliamentary probe into the bonuses.
However, a lawyer, Eric Sabiiti petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an interim order blocking the debate.
The order issued by Deputy Chief Justice, Steven Kavuma drew anger as the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga directed the Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana to vacate it immediately or Parliament would not transact government business.
Sabiiti later withdrew the petition.
Government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa confirmed the developments during a press conference at Parliament that the President insisted that the bonuses were not bribes, as alleged by some sections of the public, rather a gift.
Nankabirwa further said the President stated that efforts by Parliament to investigate the payments are open in the event that any procedures were flouted.
He reportedly told the legislators, who demanded for answers on the “presidential handshake” that his sanctioning of the bonus should be seen as a reward to the officials for the unprecedented work done.
Parliament is expected to discuss the matter when the House resumes for normal sittings on Wednesday January 17 after a three-day hiatus.