President Yoweri Museveni made a big mistake to reward 42 officials a Shs6bn Presidential ‘handshake’, a report by Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) on the matter has said.
The 42 officials were controversially awarded Shs6bn after their participation in a court case involving Uganda and Heritage Oil and Gas Arbitration. Uganda won the landmark Arbitration case in London and was awarded US$4.08m in costs.
The Shs6bn handshake that came to light early this year saw many Ugandans become furious, questioning the manner in which the 42 government officials were rewarded.
This is how Parliament resolved that COSASE led by its Chairman Abdu Katuntu investigates the matter to its logical conclusion. After months of investigations, the report is finally out.
According to the report obtained by Business Focus, the Shs6bn Presidential ‘handshake’ was illegally executed and that tax payers’ money should be refunded.
“H.E the President approval of this “handshake” was bonafide . However, it was an error of judgment,” the COSASE report reads in part.
It adds that Section 16 of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Act 1991 provides that no expenditure shall be made out of the funds of the Authority unless that expenditure is part of that expenditure approved by the board under the estimates for the financial year in which the expenditure is to be incurred or in the supplementary estimates for that year.
However, the opposite was true in the Shs6bn oil cash bonanza.
“The committee reviewed the budget for Financial Year 2016/17, which was approved by the board and subsequently appropriated by Parliament for URA activities and the Shs6bn “handshake” was not budgeted for,” the report reveals, adding that the payment was contrary to the Public Finance Management Act, specifically Section 22.
According to the Auditor General’s Report, the funds were obtained from monies earmarked for rent and renewal of licenses for IT systems, clearly showing that the ‘handshake’ was never budgeted for by URA, the report adds.
An additional Shs289m was obtained from the Legal and Administration Support Services which exhausted this particular budget item.
“The committee observes that many beneficiaries were not employees of URA, and as such should not have benefited from URA funds,” the Committee reveals.
“The Committee concludes that the argument of beneficiaries that the payment was rooted in Articles 98 and 99 of the Constitution was unfounded and misleading,” it reads in part.
The committee recommends that all funds paid out of URA account to the beneficiaries of the ‘handshake’ should be refunded.
It further recommends that “all officers who flouted the law should be held accountable and in this vein, the IGG should institute investigations to establish the culpability and possible offenses.”
“The Executive should come up with a Bill within 90 days to regulate and streamline Presidential Donations Budget,” the Committee further recommends.