A lot of mess continues to unfold in the ongoing probe into the Shs6bn Presidential handshake. The probe took a new twist when it was revealed that the London law firm hired to defend Uganda was paid by two Government entities to handle the same case.
The revelation of the double payment was made by Lawrence Kiiza,
Director of Economic Policy at the Ministry of Finance, who tabled supplementary budget documents that indicated that both Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs paid over Shs14.4bn in legal fees to the same law firm. The Finance team led by Minister Matia Kasaija, Secretary to Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi was appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) on Friday.
The team had been summoned to explain their role in the controversial
Shs6bn oil cash payment to top government officials.
In the documents tabled before Parliament, URA asked and later issued a supplementary budget of Shs2.5bn, arguing that the money will be used to pay Curtis-Mallet-Prevost to represent Uganda in the Heritage Oil case in London.
In the Financial Year 2010/11, the Ministry of Justice requested for a supplementary budget amounting to Shs11.9bn for Heritage Oil arbitration and that money was paid to London Law firm
Additionally, in Financial year 2011/12, Ministry of Justice put in a request for another supplementary budget of Shs6.78bn for heritage arbitration.
In Financial Year 2013/14, the Ministry asked for two supplementary budgets to handle the case amounting to Shs3.2bn and Shs10.3bn to facilitate the arbitration of the case.
In Financial year 2014/15, two more supplementary requests were tabled before Parliament amounting to Shs1.2bn and another Shs6bn was requested for Uganda’s legal team.
During the scrutiny of the documents, Abdu Katuntu, the COCASE Chairperson pointed out that the London Law firm was hired and paid twice at the same time by different Government bodies.
“You mean Curtis was engaged twice under one case! Because it was engaged under Ministry of Justice. Why it attracted our attention is because we knew this law firm had been hired by Ministry of Justice.
However, now from the supplementary request, we are seeing you give
Shs2.5bn to URA to hire the same lawyer for the same case,” Katuntu probed.
He added: “We know that money had been paid, released by you (Finance Ministry) to Ministry of Justice to hire the lawyer. But now we see another institution claiming money for the same lawyer, to handle the same case.”
However, Muhakanizi denied knowledge of the double payment and instead asked the Committee to ask the two bodies to explain how the money was spent.
The probe is examining the supplementary budgets released to cater for the facilitation of this case, after it was revealed that despite the fact that government spent USD10M, the London Tax Tribunal was only issued costs worthUSD4M.