On Thursday last week, the committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) presented its report after a two-month investigation of the Shs 6 billion presidential handshake.
In its recommendations, the committee, chaired by Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri), demanded that the 42 government officials who benefitted from the bonus payment refund the money. OLIVE EYOTARU followed debate on the report and brings you excerpts from the proceedings.
Mwesigwa Rukutana (Deputy AG): I want to thank the chairperson of the committee for this detailed report. I am not taking the floor to challenge the veracity or recommendations of the report. However, I would like to note some slight contradictions which we should clear before debate.
In recommendation A, all funds paid out of URA account to the beneficiaries of the handshake should be refunded. Recommendation B is that all officers who flouted the law should be held accountable and in this vein, the IGG should institute investigations with the view to establish the culpability and possible offences.
Now I find these two recommendations rather contradictory. Suppose the IGG carries out investigations and finds out that actually, the officers are not culpable or guilty yet you have already condemned them to refund the money and to be held accountable?
(Interruptions) Since it was a considered view that further investigations are required, why don’t we shelve all the other recommendations and uphold the recommendation that the IGG should institute investigations. Ordering somebody to make a refund is a punishment; you would have punished the person before he is duly investigated.
It is not my intention to challenge the veracity of the report but let’s be sober and say since more investigations are required, let us not subject the officers to punishment until the IGG carries out investigations...
Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri): In circumstances like this, we need to discuss issues soberly and without emotions. First of all, when the AG stood up, I expected him to have read the Public Finance Management Act. If he did read, I am surprised that he would raise that very issue.
Under the PFMA, sections 78, 79 and 80, there are two liabilities that are created. Under 79, criminal offices are created and when you look at our recommendations, we are talking about possible criminal offences. The issue about refund, we have clearly found out that the money was paid out contrary to the PFMA and the URA Act. We are not asking the IGG to investigate that.
There is already a finding by us and under the Act, if you have what we call refund, if you go by kindergarten English, it is money which you receive when you are not supposed to receive it or if you received more than what you were supposed to receive and then you refund what is not yours.
However, in the process, the committee notes that there are possibilities of criminal offences having been committed. But we are not a prosecuting agency as a committee of parliament. We have, therefore, referred that to the IGG. If the AG had addressed himself to Sections 78, 79 and 80, I would be surprised he would raise these issues.
Lastly, we have a conflict because the president was in a dilemma on this. The offices that are supposed to have advised him are the ones involved in this sort of thing. So, as you also take the advice of the AG, we should also take that into consideration.
Rukutuna: I have listened to the respectable, senior lawyer (point of procedure)
Katuntu: Hon Speaker, we need guidance from you. Our rules of procedure do not allow a member to speak on the same subject twice, except in a committee. Are we proceeding correctly for the learned AG who should really know these rules to speak on the same subject twice?
Kadaga: Since you had finished, you cannot come back...No (laughter).
David Abala (Ngora) (abridged): I want to refer to the bible. In Deuteronomy 20: 15, it says, “you shall not steal.” What I have seen is real theft of public funds by our officials. The officials ignored existing laws and procedures that are in place. You can imagine in URA they ignored the board and thought it was useless because they basically wanted money. I saw the real appetite for money during these meetings. They misled the president because of the real appetite for money.
If you look at this type of this thing, it shows negligence of duty, like the AG which is supposed to follow the $4 million. Up to date, that money is languishing outside this country and yet we are crying that there is no money...I agree with the recommendations that everyone whose name is mentioned here must be brought to book. The money must be refunded as early as immediately...
Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal municipality): When you go through the report, you can see that actually this group of individuals knew what they wanted and they were playing around with every office to ensure they get their catch. To me, this cannot qualify to be a reward.
We are not talking about civil servants who are earning less. These are highly-paid and taking big responsibilities for our country. For them to imagine, with all the facilitation, you are talking about Shs 56 billion. We know what it means in this package, if you are a careful person you can save something big out of it. What is really hurting is that how can we have in offices individuals of that character and yet from what has been publicized over the years they are looked at as the most angelic?
Geoffrey Macho (Busia Municipality): I don’t know...I really don’t know (laughter) where I can begin from. The recommendations of the committee are very right and timely because I see if we implement them; they will make the ruling NRM, which I belong to, become stronger...I see the AG cheering and this is what we talked about; conflict of interest. These are the problems we are facing in the NRM government.
People who would have advised the president are the people who are misadvising because of conflict of interest and eating. My mentor keeps telling people that this is Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo (term for no jokes) but we want to show Ugandans that this is Kisanja Hakuna Kukula (term for no stealing) and, as a result, I support the recommendation on basis that the image of Uganda must be protected because most of the things we do shock the region and world at large...these people must pay the money.
Denis Hamson Obua (Ajuri): In my 11 years of uninterrupted service as an MP, let me say that this report from Cosase is a landmark report. It is a report full of facts which are based on evidence and I can emphatically say it is conclusive.
In fact, debating this report is so difficult; it waters down the recommendations and findings of the committee. I would propose that we have limited debate and conclude this business. The report highlights the various provisions of the law which were raped in broad day- light. From the Constitution to URA Act, PFMA, to mention but a few, it highlights the political and legal wrongs committed, including all the atrocities.
I find myself very constrained to debate this report and I want to move that if the House could accept, maybe after some limited debate and with the mood in the House...
Anna Adeke (National Female Youth): I simply want to emphasize the moral fiber that the Shs 6 billion handshake is slowly but surely degenerating. It is unfortunate that the debate has come at a time where the public has pretty much settled on it and they made a statement on it.
However, if you felt the level of public outrage about the money that these individuals took, they were not in any way entitled to receive that money for something within their job descriptions. There are some young lawyers who were there reading the documents, burning the midnight candle but did not appear on the list. What are we showing them?
The rot in the civil service is terrible and it is the top officials who are the top culprits of that rot...I doubt that Doris Akol sat through the hours in the night to read these documents...other people did the work and were not rewarded.
Gaster Mugoya (Bukooli North): Most of these actions and omissions constitute what we call beaches under the leadership code. The decision taken by the president was bonafide and it is good. You came up with a chronology on analyzing facts and applying the facts to the law. That was a systematic way of bringing up the matter.
However, where you say that the decision of the president was bonafide; I find a slight iota of contradiction and auditor dictum, if he acted in good faith, honestly, openly, sincerely and without deceit or fraud, without stimulation or pretense, innocently in the attitude of trust and confidence, without notice of fraud, then I find that a big problem. How are you going now to criminalise the actions? (Point of clarification)
Odonga Otto (Aruu): I am seeking clarification from my learned friend who is attempting to do a very risky business (laughter). The committee chair just raised to the House that Sections 71, 79 and 80 of the PFMA require that before you spend public funds, there has to be a procedure for spending.
So, can you address your mind to the law? Are you aware that there are statutory offences under the Act that brings sanctions against those who do not comply with the law? What are you talking about and where did you come from before you came here? (laughter)
Mugoya: I am trained in judicial matters and there is no specific formula when you are analyzing a subject matter. It depends on the art when you are framing your facts…
Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya): This is the real time to act. Many of our government officials are so arrogant. If you read today’s paper, some of the beneficiaries were actually lamenting that they will not refund the funds; so, they are taking parliament for granted. They think we are toothless.
In fact we need to lead by example because one of the beneficiaries actually sits in this office of ours, Hon Slyvia Rwakoojo and hopefully she will be among the first beneficiaries to pay back.
One of the beneficiaries, Chris Kassami, died but I am of the view that if members cannot refund because the direct beneficiary died, his properties should be sold and if he has no property, the body should be exhumed and we can put on auction such that we get back our money (prolonged laughter).
Kadaga: Hon Mbwa, I want to remind you that under the Public Health Act, it is an offence to interfere with the dead.
Odria Alioni (Aringa South): The president has so many presidential advisors and these fall in different sectors, whether financial or political. Out of all these advisors together with the AG, how could His Excellency go ahead and support such an illegal expenditure?
I would request that a recommendation be made by the committee to the president that before such decisions are taken, he must do extensive consultations. It is a shame. If such is to continue, where is this country heading if all civil servants demand to be ‘hand-shaken’ for the good jobs they do?
Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East): I find it a bit perturbing that on several occasions, there is the blame or excuse game from the side of the president. If you recall the [Hassan] Basajjabalaba saga, the president was misled. When you come to this one now, the president was also misled. Now, we are in a situation where the president is being misled and the country is losing. Those people, most of the beneficiaries, the government gave them scholarships to study the oil and gas courses.
Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West): I would like to make a small amendment. According to the letter written by Doris Akol to the president [asking for the handshake], it indicated that they are going to buy plots of land to build houses or finish their unfinished houses. These are all appreciating goods that make profits.
When you take Shs 200 million from the bank today, after 2 years, it would have made some Shs 15 million. So, it would be very prudent and fair enough for these people not to return the actual money given to them without interest. At least this would be punishment enough because when you tell them to bring that money, it won’t be a good example to other public servants who have been doing such in arranging for themselves rewards in form of cash.
Silas Aogon (Kumi Municipality): The office of the AG is so vital to this House. It is very unfortunate that sometimes that office seems to abuse what it is supposed to be doing by way of trying to block debate of such pertinent nature. It is the right time as parliament to stamp our authority. Scientifically, this is the litmus test that we must go through as the 10th Parliament. If we don’t do the right thing, everybody will ignore us.
Therefore, whoever stands up to speak should be firm and defend the Constitution. There are people who are always undermining our committees because they get a lot of money in crooked ways. They know we share our little money with our voters and, therefore, what can we say to them? It should not be the president to refund the money but those who misused the money and we should do surveillance to make sure they don’t run to State House to get this money.
Kenneth Lubogo (Bulamogi): When you read this report, there is the external lawyer who was paid $8 million. The report does not give details on how much the external lawyer contributed and if there is nothing much the lawyer contributed, how much did we lose?
Matthias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality): The actions of the 9th Parliament are in part returning to haunt and hound some of us who were there. This challenge today should really bring us to reflection as to the need to amend the upstream and downstream oil legislations to bring back the powers of parliament to scrutinize all forms of agreements that relate to oil transactions. It partly explains why the minister inadvertently signed an agreement she had not read.
Secondly, I would like to imagine that we have a government officer charged with recovering taxes. Why would we have withholding tax not recovered? We would like to have a recommendation clearly indicting the Solicitor General for failure to recover withholding tax yet he paid the firm that handled that matter. I would like to invite parliament to add a clear recommendation on recovery of withholding tax and the IGG could interest herself in this. This money could have been somehow collected. This is unprecedented.
Katuntu wraps up: You may wish to sign these agreements but the problems that come with this are many and Hon Syda Bbumba will not be the last one. As far as Hon Bbumba, Hilary Onek and Daudi Migereko are concerned, we have suggested that the IGG should take up all these matters.
If any of them is found to have breached [the law] like we sort of see but didn’t go into detail, those people should be brought to book. That goes from the public officers who were involved in this handshake to the ministers who signed this profit sharing agreement (PSA). Our meeting with the president was clear on who has powers to waive the taxes and he did tell us that Hon Bbumba did it without consultation…
Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa: From the debates, it has been very clear that this matter needed to be handled the way it has been handled; time for people to be heard, for laws to be consulted, for everybody including the head of state to be consulted…It is also clear that more time is needed for other agencies to conclude what the committee has started.
For me, I have stood up here to say that government has been present when the committee tabled its report in this House and we have noted that more than 30 MPs have contributed and none of them opposed what the committee has recommended. My role is to carry the report with the recommendations to the leader of government business and to ensure that the report is laid in cabinet.
KAMPALA- A court official attached to Masindi High Court has been interdicted over allegations of asking for bribes from court users as well as hiding of their files.
Ms Florence Kaahwa, a process server was interdicted by Mr Kagole Kivumbi, the Secretary to Judiciary in a June 23, 2017 letter to pave way for investigations.
“I (Mr Kagole) acknowledge with thanks receipt of your letter, dated 8 June, 2017 in connection with the complaint against you regarding the alleged hiding of court files and soliciting for bribes from court users at Masindi High Court,” Mr Kagole’s letter reads in part. “After considering the gravity of the allegations and your response, this is to inform you that disciplinary proceedings are being taken against you (Ms Kaahwa) for acts or omission against public interest that bring the service into disrespect and involving turpitude.”
Mr Kagole added in the letter: “Consequently, effective 23 June, 2017, you (Ms Kaahwa) are hereby interdicted from exercising the powers and functions of a process server in the courts of judicature”.
Mr Kagole said the interdiction is in line with the provisions of the Uganda Public Service Standing Orders.
During her interdiction, the affected process server will be earning half of her salary; she is also not allowed to access the Masindi High Court premises without the permission of Mr Kagole.
The registrar of Masindi High Court has been asked to ensure that Ms Kaahwa complies with the interdiction letter.
The interdiction of Ms Kaahwa comes at the time when there is an on-going clean-up of the Judiciary of fraudulent staff.
So far, a number of judicial and non-judicial staff have been suspended or prosecuted over alleged graft.
Some have been reshuffled especially errant court clerks who had over stayed at their respective work stations for many years and had become prone to corruption.
The Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi has visited the former Democratic Party President Ssebana Kizito who is hospitalised at Nakasero Hospital, in Kampala.
The Kabaka was on Sunday received by the Managing Director of Statewide Insurance Company, Mr J. W. Kiwanuka. Mr Ssebaana is the co-founder of the insurance company.
The Kabaka spent a few minutes in the restricted room where Mr Ssebaana is being treated.
Mr Dick Kasolo, the Kabaka’s publicist issued a statement expressing optimism about Mr Ssebaana’s health.
"Doctors have assured the Kabaka that Mr Ssebaana is responsive to treatment although he is still unable to speak. They [doctors] anticipate he will get well soon," Mr Kasolo said in a statement.
Mr Ssebaana was hospitalitalised last week over multiple strokes to the brain and he has since been in the intensive care unit of Nakasero Hospital.
Mr Ssebaana was a member of Buganda Lukiiko (Parliament). He is a shareholder of the kingdom’s CBS radio. He was also a member of several social and development committee of the kingdom.
Two Buganda royal families are locked in a battle for ownership of a 37-acre piece of land in Lubowa which was recently earmarked for a multi-billion hospital, writes JOSEPH KIMBOWA.
On June 1, President Museveni officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony for the proposed $250m hospital complex in the upscale suburb. The project is led by Italian investor Enrica Panetta through her company called Finasi. It’s a joint venture with the government and is funded by Standard Chartered bank
Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister of Health, said that upon completion, the hospital complex will sit on 86 acres.
She added that the specialized hospital comes at an appropriate time when the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is on the increase, especially cancer.
“The challenge has been inadequate infrastructure, inadequate or late diagnosis and treatment equipment.”
President Museveni, meanwhile, noted that the hospital would cater for all the VIP cases instead of referring them abroad. The president added that the project would save Uganda $186m annually, which is spent on treating VIPs abroad. The complex will also have a medical training institute, hotel facilities, among other amenities. On top of that, the facility will use solar energy to cut costs on power.
President Museveni is shown how the proposed $250m hospital will look like. On his right is Enrica Panetta, the Italian investor behind the project
“Once fully operational, this facility will curb down on the massive loss of foreign exchange by citizens seeking specialized treatment abroad by offering brain surgery, cardiac surgery and thereby promoting Uganda as a medical tourism destination,” Aceng noted.
Behind the scenes, however, is a protracted battle for the land that has sucked in Diana Atwine, the ministry of Health permanent secretary.
The battle could delay the start of the project, which is projected to be completed within two years. One faction is led by US-based Prince Joseph Kalemera Kiggala and another by Prince Nakibinge Kimbugwe.
Last year, Nakibinge, issued a statement introducing himself and five other Buganda royals as the caretakers of the disputed land on Block 269. The others are Princes Fredrick James Jjunju, Joseph Kiyimba Jjuuko and John Ddamba Bbemba. The Princesses are: Mariam Namusisi Nasiwa and Victoria Luwedde.
But Prince Kiggala’s faction allege that only two of those listed on the document are genuine royal family members and the rest “are land agents who want to grab the contested land.”
Nakibinge, through its lawyers Alaka & Co Advocates, wants the project halted until the owner- ship is resolved. Documents obtained by The Observer indicate that on May 28, they warned Roko construction, the company hired to construct the hospital, to stop all operations at the site and also warned the company officials not to step at the venue for the ground-breaking ceremony.
Following this warning, Roko officials reportedly communicated to Dr Atwine saying, they would not go to the site unless the land ownership issue is solved.
Dr Atwine, in turn, approached the team led by Prince Kiggala, which gave the ministry the go-ahead with the inauguration, promising negotiations with government at a later date.
On May 29, Kiggala, through his lawyers, Alliance advocates, wrote to Roko asking it to ignore Kimbugwe and attend the inauguration ceremony but also warned the construction company not to do anything without their consent.
“This is therefore to call upon you not to deal with the said persons in the matter as they have no legitimate interest at all in the said land. We, however, also demand that you forthwith stop your activities on the said land which are being done without our client’s knowledge, consent or permission on receipt of this letter, failure whereof we shall be constrained to institute proceedings against you...,” said Kiggala’s lawyers.
When contacted, Dr Atwine was reluctant to comment.
“You have been writing about those issues for some time, what other comment you want from me,” she said before promising to call back but by Thursday, she had not.
Dr Atwine chose Kiggala’s faction because it had earlier presented to her 2008 court documents that granted Kiggala powers of administration of the estate as well as the will.
Kiggala maintains he is the only surviving administrator of this estate.The will, dated December 2, 1944, was made by Prince Yusufu Ssuuna, a son to former Buganda king Mwanga II. This 37-acre piece is part of the six square mile Mailo land left by Ssuuna.
On the ground-breaking cer- emony, president Museveni warned individuals claiming ownership of the land whose title is in government custody.
“We took 30 acres of this land to construct this hospital. There is no way anybody can success- fully claim this land,” President Museveni said.
For now, it remains unclear which of the two parties government will compensate for the project but delays in court could stall the joint venture.
The EU pledged 85 million euros (about Shs340,872,633,942) to Uganda Thursday, ahead of a summit to raise twenty times that amount to help it deal with nearly one million refugees from South Sudan.
Uganda is facing the world's fastest growing refugee crisis as South Sudanese pour over the border to escape more than three years of civil war in their country.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is visiting a refugee settlement Thursday, before joining other top officials, donors and regional leaders for the Refugee Solidarity Summit in Kampala on Friday.
The summit aims to raise $2 billion for the coming year, however organisers say $8 billion is needed to deal with the crisis for the coming four years.
The European pledge is to "help Uganda deal with this unprecedented situation and support the most vulnerable refugees," said aid commissioner Christos Stylianides, who visited the Imvepi settlement in the remote north of the country with UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi.
"Uganda's example of helping vulnerable people cope with displacement is an example for the whole region and the world. However no country can deal with such a high number of refugees on its own," said Stylianides.
'Treating the symptoms'
The UN Secretary General, Mr Antonio Gutierres serving food to South Sudanese refugees at Imvepi settlement camp in Arua District on June 22, 2017. PHOTO BY FELIX WAROM OKELLO.
According to the UN refugee agency more than 947,000 South Sudanese refugees are sheltering in Uganda, bringing the total number of refugees in the east African nation to more than 1.2 million.
South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, was plunged into civil war in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his rival and former deputy Riek Machar of plotting a coup against him.
An August 2015 peace deal was left in tatters when fighting broke out in Juba in July last year, spreading violence across the country.
It was this outbreak of fighting that led to the biggest exodus, with some 743,000 South Sudanese arriving in Uganda since July 2016, about 2,000 a day.
More than 270,000 are housed in Bidibidi settlement, which overtook Kenya's Dadaab earlier this year as the biggest refugee camp in the world.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been hailed for a progressive refugee policy in which refugees are allowed to work and access public services.
However the situation on the ground has been overwhelming for locals and aid workers, with not enough food and water to go around.
The UN estimates that another 500,000 South Sudanese will arrive in Uganda this year.
The summit will not include discussions on how to end the ongoing fighting, and there is no peace process in sight.
"We are treating the symptoms but the real root cause of this violence should be addressed. That is what is forcing people to run from their land," said Wadri Sam Nykua, the top government official in Arua, Uganda, welcoming the EU and UN officials to the refugee settlement.
A gloomy mood has engulfed Soroti District after the death of the former Soroti County MP Peter Omolo. Omolo has been a member of the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.
According to family members and FDC stalwarts in Teso, Omolo breathed his last on Thursday, a few minutes to midnight at Mulago Hospital where he had been admitted.
Mr Daniel Omara, his son, confirmed his death in a statement.
Ms Florence Ibbi, former Woman MP for Kaberamaido District told the press that they rushed Omolo to Mulago Hospital where he was diagnosed with acute pneumonia but died shortly after as doctors tried to find veins to enable a blood transfusion.
"FDC and Teso have lost an icon, a man who was a staunch opposition, an advocate for good governance," she said.
Ms Ibbi said that Omolo was a man who wished that all citizens exercised their freedom and enjoyed the public good without State interference.
Mr Julius Ekudo, the former Gweri Local Council III chairman who closely worked with the late since the Reform Agenda activism said the late was a courageous politician who sold the seeds of Reform Agenda and later FDC without fear.
"He volunteered to see that FDC is what it's in Teso and Soroti," he said.
The deceased, was a former legislator for both the 8th and 9th Parliament and also served in the Constituency Assembly that developed the 1995 constitution.
He was one of the most spoken legislators of the 8th Parliament.
His contribution was minimal in the ninth Parliament after falling sick barely a year after being re-elected.
He died at the age of 62.
Accused of being a mastermind of the deadly clashes in Apaa village between the Acholi in Amuru district and Madi from West Nile, the First Deputy Prime Minister, Gen Moses Ali, said yesterday that he is ready to go to prison if there’s evidence linking him to the killings.
At least six people were killed and 20 injured in the clashes that have heightened tensions between the two communities, which have fought over a piece of land in Apaa village along their common border since June 4.
The clashes have drawn all kinds of controversy in Parliament, which peaked on June 21, with a fierce verbal exchange between MPs from Acholi and Madi during the plenary sitting.
Before the exchange, the minister of State for Lands and Housing, Chris Baryomunsi, presented a statement about the latest clashes in Apaa parish. Gen Ali, whose name has been mentioned repeatedly among the masterminds who rallied the Madi community to attack the Acholi on the disputed Apaa land, strongly denied any involvement.
“Allegations have been made against me but I know the investigating department is doing its work. I believe whoever they find involved, including me, I am ready to go to Luzira [Prison] or anywhere, even Nalufenya,” Gen Ali said.
Gen Moses Ali
The Adjumani West County MP faced off with Acholi MPs, Gilbert Olanya (Kilak South) and Anthony Akol (Kilak North), who claimed he fans the violence in the disputed area.
Olanya repeatedly referred to Ali as the first suspect and urged police to grill him and charge him with inciting his community against the Acholi.
“It is very difficult to trust a lion with your meat. Therefore, you cannot 100 per cent base your argument on a report shared by Gen Ali. There is no conflict between the Madi and Acholi but the only problem is, we have some greedy people who are here conniving with investors to sell the land and deprive our people of their land rights,” Olanya said.
Anthony Akol (Kilak North) insisted that Gen Ali must step aside to allow independent investigations go on. Gen Ali accused Akol and Olanya of turning the clashes into a political platform to incite the Acholi community to attack the Madi.
“Yes, the investigations must go on but not only Moses Ali should be investigated; anyone involved, including Olanya and Akol, must be ready to carry our crosses if we are found guilty,” the minister angrily retorted.
Jessica Ababiku (Adjumani Woman) reminded Olanya that during the 9th Parliament, an investigative report by the Physical Infrastructure committee, which investigated the Amuru and Adjumani boundary disputes in March 2013, accused him of fanning the violence in Apaa.
Eventually, after a protracted debate, a number of MPs, including Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza, proposed the formation of an independent committee to investigate the clashes, but without leaders or individuals from the Madi and Acholi sub-regions.
Sharp exchanges between MPs and ministers capped hours of yesterday’s bitter debate on the investigation report into the Shs 6 billion reward to 42 government officials who performed commendably in the London tax arbitration dispute between Uganda and Heritage Oil and Gas and Tullow Oil.
The report by the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) committee, presented to the House yesterday, recommended that the beneficiaries should refund the Shs 6bn. However, the deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana, suggested that the inspectorate of Government should first conduct an investigation of its own.
But the MPs noisily rejected that suggestion. The MPs stopped government’s attempt to shelve the recommendations, which are largely unfavourable to the beneficiaries of the bonus payment.
According to the report, the payout to the beneficiaries was irregular and flouted the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Some of the beneficiaries included Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General Doris Akol and former Attorneys-General, Fred Ruhindi and Peter Nyombi, KCCA Executive Director Jennifer Musisi, Solicitor General Francis Atoke, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance Keith Muhakanizi and UNRA Commissioner General Allen Kagina.
Shortly before the debate on the report commenced, Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana pointed out the contradictions in the committee recommendations.
In trying to cushion the 42 government officials from receiving double punishment, Rukutana explained that ordering someone to refund the money before being duly investigated by the IGG was not right.
The AG suggested that keeping in line with one of the recommendations, the IGG should first establish whether the beneficiaries should refund the money before they are punished.
“I find these two recommendations rather contradictory. Suppose the IGG carries out investigations and finds that actually the officers are not culpable or guilty, yet you have already condemned them to refund the money and be held accountable?” Rukutana said, amidst boos from legislators.
COSASE Chairman, Abdu Katuntu did not take the AG’s submission lying down. He accused the AG of not reading the law, which provides guidelines for the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) on expenditure of taxpayers’ money.
Katuntu, who presented the 90-page report, explained that Sections 78, 79 and 80 are clear on liabilities and penalties against officials who flout the law. He noted that it was imperative for Parliament to also give a heads-up to the IGG’s office in the event that there was criminality detected in the payment of the Shs 6 billion bonus.
“The issue about referring, we have clearly found out that the money was paid out contrary to the law. The committee investigated and in the process, noted the possibility of criminal offences having been committed. Since we are not a prosecuting agency, we referred this to the IGG,” Katuntu said.
During the committee probe, legislators faulted the AG’s office for failing to advise the president on the payment of the bonus, which the committee noted was not provided for in the public service standing orders.
Katuntu said Rukutana’s objections to the committee’s recommendations were a slap in the face of his committee’s efforts to put things right.
“We are having a conflict and the president was in a dilemma on this matter. The offices that should have advised him are the ones involved in that issue, so as we take advice from the office of the AG, we should also take that into consideration,” Katuntu stated.
Majority of MPs who backed the committee’s recommendations insisted that the implicated officers should refund the money. Silas Aogon (Kumi Municipality) demanded that the beneficiaries, and not the president, should be tasked to refund the money and, if need be, surveillance made to ensure they do not run away with taxpayers’ money.
Anne Adeke (Female Youth) said the beneficiaries must offer public apologies to all Ugandans.
The Parliament's committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) that probed into the Shs 6 billion oil cash, bonanza has recommended that all beneficiaries refund the money.
The list also has former attorney general Fred Ruhindi, state attorney George Kalemera, solicitor general Francis Atooke and the secretary to Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi.
The committee observations indicate that the payment of the Shs 6 billion was managed by the URA commissioner general with the payment being a reallocation of the money from the URA tax refund account to URA expenditure account, something that the MPs say contravenes the law.
Following the reallocation, Akol suggested that a supplementary to URA for the same amount be considered and handled by the finance ministry.
Further committee observations on correspondences between President Museveni, former attorney general Fred Ruhindi and URA's Akol indicate that the presidential handshake team requested or solicited for the reward.
"It is evident from the president's letter and testimony corroborated by the commissioner general's letter that the team which met the president at his country home in Rwakitura on the 17th May 2015, requested for a reward and the president agreed to reward them," reads part of the report yet to be debated by parliament.
The committee also observes that it is clear from Akol's letter dated 26th June 2015 that the president instructed her to propose an "adequate reward" following a request by the team to the president.
Besides pinning the beneficiaries on soliciting the reward, the committee also observes that the payment of Shs 6 billion was contrary to the standard practices of rewarding public officers as provided for in the Public Service Standing Orders.
According to Paragraph 19 of the Public Service Standing Orders, teams and institutions may be rewarded but paragraph 20 restricts the scheme to non-monetary awards.
The procedure for the awards is further provided for under Paragraph 22 and entails the constitution of an Awards Committee by the responsible officer to receive, evaluate the nominations and approve the awards.
"For this "handshake" to qualify as an award under the Public Service Standing Orders, the procedure should have been followed. This was not the case," reads the report.
The committee further indicates that evidence obtained from URA shows that the "handshake" was not provided for under the Authority's Human Resource Manual.
COSASE now recommends that the Inspector General of Government (IGG) Irene Mulyagonja institutes investigations with a view to holding all officers who flouted the Uganda Public Service Standing Orders and other laws culpable and establish the possible offences.
Although the report does not explicitly name the officials who flouted the law, it faults Akol for violating the URA Act and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) by authorising the withdrawal of the money from the URA Account without the approval of the Authority's board.
The committee also recommends that the supplementary request of Shs 6 billion currently before parliament should be rejected because the payment created a liability infringing section 22 of the Public Finance Management Act.
It should be remembered that in his meetings with the committee, President Museveni reportedly agreed to personally refund the money given to the officials indicating that it was wrong for the money to come from URA's instead of the State House budget.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has threatened to suspend legislators who heckle the president, whenever he comes to address the House.
Kadaga says even though some legislators may disagree with the president's speech, they should allow him to deliver his message and debate the issues presented later during plenary.
She cited the recent behaviour of some legislators during the State of the Nation address and budget day reading speech.
"[During the] State of the Nation and the budget speech, some members are so intolerant; that they heckle and shout at the speech of the Head of State. Why don't you just listen, come back here and debate in the plenary…Believe me; the comments I get from citizens, they don’t really appreciate that conduct. And, as I informed you, my colleagues, the speakers in the region each time we finish, they say but how can this happen? How can this happen to Head of State?
In those countries it doesn’t happen. So Hon members even if you don’t like what the president is saying, we have the time to bash what he is saying here in the plenary. So I hope that this will not happen again. If it does, Hon members I will do something about. The other day, the MPs in Zambia heckled the president and 48 of them were suspended by the Speaker of Zambia", Kadaga said.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga
Rule 10 (4) of the Parliament rules of procedure provides that "The President, while occupying the chair of State may make a Presidential statement, which shall be heard in silence and not followed by any comment or question; and shall not otherwise participate in the proceedings of the House in any way.'
Kadaga also noted with concern the misconduct of MPs during the campaigns of the candidates for the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) in February. She said the behaviour of some legislators violated the Parliament Rules of Procedure.
"When we were electing the EALA legislators, I had to restrain myself from speaking against the conduct of the members such that it doesn’t affect the outcome of that election but I was very disturbed by what happened. There was gross breach of our rules of procedure, chanting of party slogans in the plenary, bringing party flags, party symbols, heckling and shouting. I think it was not in good spirits and I hope that in future we shall conduct ourselves in an orderly manner. Even if you are excited about our candidates, I think what we do is not necessary but I did not want to endanger the results that’s why I kept quiet", she added.
Appendix F of the Parliament's rules of procedure, under Public Trust, says that 'Members shall at all times conduct themselves in a manner, which will maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and never undertake any action which may bring the House or its members generally, into disrepute.'
Last week, Patrick Matibini, the Speaker of the Zambian parliament suspended 48 opposition lawmakers for boycotting a speech by President Edgar Lungu's at the official opening of the country's assembly in March, saying they did not recognize him as leader.
The legislators from the United Party for National Development (UPND) were barred from taking their seats for 30 days, a move that banned them from the parliament building, payment of their wages were also suspended.