Kampala. Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) yesterday explained the payout of Shs6b to 42 public officials who participated in the different oil cases and won the country a combined total of $700m as “standard international best practice”.
“Equally under the Ugandan Constitution,” wrote Ms Sarah Banage, the tax body’s assistant commissioner for public and corporate affairs, “The President has a prerogative as the fountain of honour to reward exemplary performance and this has been exhibited in the fields of health, academia, and sports to mention a few.” She added: “For the record, the payments went through the necessary approvals as required by the Public Finance Management Act as amended.”
However, on the different occasions when the President has rewarded high performers such as Olympic Gold Medalist Stephen Kiprotich, it has been done publicly unlike this pay-out that remained under wraps until the online publication, Chimpreports first broke the story.
The oil cash bonanza, which came to light at the weekend, has since been criticised by different groups and individuals.
Mr Julius Mishambi, the director of programmes at the Uganda Debt Network, challenged the legality of the payout. He argued, citing Articles 153 and 154 of the Constitution, that all public funds must be kept on the Consolidated Fund and any withdrawal must be done with the authorisation of Parliament.
“Even with the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 in place, the very institutions and individuals who should be custodians of public resources are the ones abusing such resources, Mr Mukunda said.
Different parliamentarians have since vowed to institute an inquiry into how the money was paid out to the officials.
The tax body, which paid out the money to some of its own officials and others from different ministries, had remained tight-lipped on the matter until this newspaper in an exposé yesterday published details of a letter that Ms Doris Akol, the commissioner-general of the tax body, wrote to President Museveni in relation to the matter.
Ms Akol, citing a meeting with the President held on May 17, 2015, argued in her letter, titled “philosophy behind the recommended reward”, that a “presidential handshake” should be extended to the 42 officials to do “something tangible” like “acquire a decent plot of land, pay a deposit on a mortgage or perhaps facilitate finishes on a home”.
The newspaper had on Wednesday reported that the money was paid out to the officials with the approval of President Museveni and Cabinet.
Ms Akol, who was appointed to act as the accounting officer for the payout, allegedly bagged Shs242m. Ms Akol, before becoming commissioner-general of URA, was head of the legal department at URA when the cases came up.
Also on the list of beneficiaries is Allen Kagina, Ms Akol’s predecessor who now heads the Uganda National Roads Authority, Kampala Capital City Authority Executive Director Jennifer Musisi, who was head of the legal department at URA until 2007, and Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi. Former Attorney General Peter Nyombi and his deputy Fred Ruhindi, who was former attorney general and later became attorney general, also got a share, among others.
URA’s Banage in yesterday’s statement said 11 of former and current URA employees did not benefit from the money as we reported yesterday. Although the tax Authority disputed some of the names and figures as inaccurate, it did not provide the authentic version.
URA staff [former and current] who didn’t benefit:
1. Irene Kyomuhendo
2. Agnes Nabwire
4. Stella Justine Nanziri
5. Robert Wabokha
11. Michael Otonga Ochan.