President Museveni gave the green light to controversial compensation payments made to businessmen Hassan Basajjabalaba and Col John Mugyenyi, former Attorney General Prof Khiddu Makubuya told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee yesterday.
MPs are investigating allegations that government officials colluded with the businessmen to inflate the dodgy claims, which were paid out of the public purse.
Prof. Makubuya, who is now in charge of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, is the second minister to directly implicate the President in the payments, after former Finance Minister Syda Bbumba.
“My first encounter with these matters was through a letter from the President asking me to evaluate and compensate the developers,” Prof. Makubuya told MPs yesterday.
“In his letter dated November 10 2008, President Museveni said Kampala City Council was selling markets at the expense of the poor people and that this had caused unnecessary anxiety and chaos in the City.”
MPs heard that earlier, on July 30, 2008, President Museveni wrote to Prof Makubuya directing him to examine the legality of the claims and advise him as soon as possible but the then Attorney General said yesterday that he did not respond to the directive because it had “been overtaken by events”.
His failure to explain did not please the MPs, who later compelled him to take an oath before giving further testimony.
PAC Chairperson Kassiano Wadri rejected Prof. Makubuya’s request to hold the session in camera, pointing out that the President’s letters on the matter were already public. However, journalists were later asked to leave the committee room.
MPs who attended the closed session later told Daily Monitor that Prof. Makubuya apologised for failure to advise the President on the compensations and reportedly took responsibility.
“He told us that his office cleared the payments to businessmen because they had lost business and he was not sure whether the KCC Town Clerk had sought legal counsel from the Attorney General’s Office before entering into the contracts,” an MP, who preferred anonymity, said.
He added: “What came out from his explanation was that President Museveni knew about the payments and Prof. Makubuya was only implementing a presidential directive although he was trying to play safe.”
The former Attorney General is expected to continue giving testimony today.
President Museveni has previously said he directed for compensation in principle without specifying the amounts, a crucial detail that MPs will seek to establish when, as expected, they interview the President over the matter.
Mr Basajjabalaba, a high ranking member of the ruling NRM party and a key financier, previously told MPs that his compensation was approved and directed by the President.