Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has admitted that the UGX 10.5 billion that was released to compensate land claimants was done in error.
Appearing before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, Matia said that the request for the supplementary was illegal and erroneously approved without following the rightful procedures in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, 2015.
He faulted his technical staff for misguiding him into approving a supplementary request that was not initiated by the end-user agency. He said that whereas he may admit to being negligent in approving and signing the payments without doing due diligence, technical staff are charged with the duty to advise him accordingly.
He added that most of the time, there are many documents and proposals in his office that require him to sign, yet it is extremely hard for him, as the Minister, to read in detail each of the said documents, thus the need for support from the technical team.
“There are thousands of documents to be read through and signed.” To the chagrin of the committee members, “My assumption is that we have technical staff who prepare these documents and I believe they carry out due diligence, so when they bring these documents, I sign them,” Mr. Kasaija said, to the chagrin of the committee members.
Kasaija further told the Committee that the said supplementary budget was initiated by the then Minister of Lands, Beti Kamya, on March 12, 2021, who requested the Ministry of Finance to make available Shs10.62 billion for ULC to compensate six land claimants.
He noted that Kamya, in her letter, told the Finance minister that she had received a directive from the President to pay the claimants.
However, ULC chairperson Beatrice Byenkya, while appearing before the same committee on May 20th, 2022, told the committee that her commission had not requested the money.
The committee is investigating the origin of the supplementary after the Auditor General’s report raised a red flag.
According to the Attorney General’s report for FY2020/2021, the money being queried was paid out to six claimants following a land transaction but without the approval of the ULC.
The six land claimants who benefited from the Shs10.6 billion supplementary are, Kasiya Rwabukurukuru (Shs6.43 billion), Stephen Peter Nagenda (Shs1.06 billion), Julius Busuulwa (Shs1.4 billion), Natalia Namuli (Shs1.6 billion), Yisaka Lwakana (Shs125.3 million), and Geoffrey Mugisha (Shs1.49 billion).
The Committee was, however, concerned that the Minister would sign documents without reading them and doing proper due diligence. They were also concerned that the minister would act on an alleged presidential directive without verifying its validity.
The committee further called out the technical staff at the Ministry for negligence and for failing to execute their mandate as required by the law. They called upon the Minister of Finance to reign over his misleading technical staff and take action against them.
The Minister, in response, proposed that the committee summon the then Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, to explain some of the illegalities surrounding the said supplementary.
He also apologized for the UGX 10.6 billion supplementary budget for the Uganda Land Commission (ULC) to pay land claimants in Buganda and Bunyoro sub-regions in the Financial Year 2020/2021.