Members of Parliament have questioned the Ministry of Finance for spending Shs2bn as payment to Ernst & Young to conduct another verification exercise to pay Ugandan traders who lost their goods in South Sudan crisis despite a recommendation from Parliament to pay up the money.
Led by Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, Parliament questioned the decision by officials at the Ministry of Finance to contract Ernest & Young yet the same verification exercise had been carried out by Parliament’s select Committee.
During the plenary sitting, Kadaga questioned why the Ministry of Finance had contracted the audit firm Ernst & Young instead of using a Government body like the Auditor General, further questioning if the decision by the Ministry casts a vote of no confidence to the Office of the Auditor General.
Moses Nagwomu (Bunyole West) said that the payment to Ernst & Young wasn’t called for and warned that failure to compensate the traders would have catastrophic impact on Uganda’s economy.
It should be recalled that in May 2019, Parliament approved a recommendation by the select committee to compensate Ugandan traders up to Shs948.95bn after they lost their goods following a Civil War that broke out in South Sudan between forces of the government and opposition forces led by Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir.
The report was presented by Ann Maria Nankabirwa, (Kyankwanzi Woman MP) who also doubled as Chairperson of the Select Committee.
The MPs proposed to have taxes of these companies written off.
However, despite Parliament’s recommendation and later appropriation of Shs67bn, the Ministry has refused to pay up the traders arguing that there is need to conduct another verification process.
The compensation was in response to a Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda and South Sudan Governments where Uganda agreed to pay the money and treats it as a loan to the government of South Sudan which will pay it in a space of 10 years at a six per cent interest rate after the first year.
Othieno Okoth Richard, West Budama North MP said that the verification by Finance is not needed because South Sudan has agreed to pay the money and has not queried the Ugandans.
David Abala (Ngora County MP) said the decision by the Ministry of Finance to refuse payment raises suspicion on whether some of the officials are looking for kickbacks.
When asked to respond to the matter, David Bahati, State Minister for Planning asked Speaker to use her powers and ask the Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija to respond why the Ministry has refused to pay the traders.