Parliament has directed the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to present an addendum to the national budget as proof of Government’s commitment to compensate companies that lost out on goods and services supplied to South Sudan between 2008 and 2010.
The MPs raised concern that Ugandan traders who supplied goods and services to South Sudan but lost out when war when war broke out have not been compensated despite their plight having been severally addressed and a resolution to pay passed.
They said Parliament has in the recent past allocated money to ensure that these traders are compensated but unfortunately, Government has remained hesitant to pay these traders.
House Speaker, Anita Among noted that the compensation of South Sudan traders remains an outstanding matter since 2005.
While commenting on the matter, Cecilia Ogwal the Dokolo Woman MP told the house that it is wrong for the government to keep on saying there is no money yet Parliament gave the Government powers through resolutions to have these traders compensated.
“Government has no excuse to say there is no money because Parliament gave them powers through resolutions. Parliament went ahead to pass a supplementary budget to cater for the 23 verified companies. If their money was diverted, the Minister must tell us where the money went,” said Ogwal.
On 30 March 2018, Parliament passed a supplementary allowing government to borrow and compensate 23 traders whose claim was up for verification. The claim totaled to US$ 47,207,849 and Sudanese Pounds (SDG) 36,332,227.
These companies were excluded from an initial agreement between the Governments of Uganda and South Sudan to compensate 10 companies that supplied goods to South Sudan.
The finance minister, Matia Kasaija noted that the Government could not pay because the guarantee is not the same thing as the agreement.
“We could not pay on the guarantee because the Government had not had the addendum on the main agreement which would be the basis upon which South Sudan would pay when time comes,” said Kasaija before adding that, “Government is incapacitated to pay traders.”
“The problem, first of all is the capacity we have as the Treasury, and as you have seen even for the 10 companies, we have been compensating them since 2019 because the funds were not available because we are constrained by cash flow,” said Kasaija.
However, legislators were not satisfied with Kasaija’s excuse for the delayed payment and they implored Government to move fast considering that traders lost not only property but lives and many people were pushed out of business.
Kasanda County MP, Patrick Nsamba Oshabe demanded that the Minister of Finance lays before Parliament the verified companies and commitment that indeed the government is determined to compensate the traders.
“There is a gentleman called Bongomin Sunday, this man has ran mad because he lost US$3.3 million. There is a woman called Jane who collapsed in Hon. David Bahati’s office. There is also a man called Gunya whose businesses in Lira have been closed – he has lost all his houses. Hon. Minister, we want these people to get their money,” said Among.
Busia Municipality MP, Geoffrey Macho also testified about traders from his constituency who lost lives, homes and families due to the financial loss suffered since 2008.
“Our very own Masaba of Busia, the owner of Masaba Coaches had all buses burnt. I know people who lost tons of maize that have not been paid,” he added.
Solomon Silwany the Bukoli County Central MP, told the house that he knows of a trader who died of pressure caused by the financial loss and asked Parliament to urgently bring to an end the plight of these traders.
“Today is the 8th time the minister is coming here telling Parliament that we are sorting this matter. You asked the minister how long he is going to take to pay but he is still talking about estimation of days – Madam Speaker, when are we going to complete this matter?” Silwany wondered.
Among directed Kasaija to get an addendum to the initial payment agreement between Uganda and South Sudan by June 2022, upon which Uganda would base on to pay the claimants.
“We are asking the minister that go back to South Sudan get an addendum for the 23 companies to be paid, once you get that addendum, it takes the first call to pay these people because it’s a public debt,” she directed.