Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) has ordered for an inquest and possible prosecution of ombudsman Beti Kamya and Finance minister Matia Kasaija.
The two government officials have been red flagged for “illegally clearing” the release of Shs10.6b that was paid to ghost claimants in 2020.
The Cosase report that was presented to the House on Thursday, also recommends that Mr Patrick Ocailap, the Deputy Secretary to Treasury, be “punished” for not thoroughly scrutinising the request for the release of the money.
Mr Ocailap was deemed to be at fault because he was acting on behalf of the then Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, who was at the time out of the country.
“Mr Matia Kasaija, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, and Mr Patrick Ocailap, the Deputy Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, should be investigated for their role in the Shs10.6b supplementary process,” the report, which also pins officials from Uganda Land Commission (ULC), reads in part, adding in another passage; “Management admitted that although the…supplementary was received and spent by ULC, the Commission did not initiate the request for the said money.”
It further revealed that Ms Beatrice Byenkya, the ULC chairperson, informed Cosase that she was never “consulted at all regarding the request for the supplementary budget, and neither was the Commission.”
ULC officials were also faulted for “conniving” with lawyer Richard Buzibira to forge court documents in regard to compensation.
“The lawyers from Lubega, Buzibira and Company Advocates should be prosecuted for aiding the fraudulent transaction,” the report states, adding, “Disciplinary action should be taken against Denis Kahabura, the registrar of Kibaale, for issuing a title based on forged documents.”
The crux of the matter was that the Shs10.6b release was effected by the Finance ministry following a request of Ms Kamya in her capacity as Lands minister at the time.
Cosase revealed that—without providing proof—the sidestepping of the ULC was informed by “a presidential directive.”
The report was stinging in its recommendation of punishments for ULC officials deemed to be in cahoots.
“Ms Barbara Imaryo, the then accounting officer, and Mr Siraje Isabirye, the head of accounts, should be prosecuted in regard to the ghost payments in the supplementary,” the report reads.
It adds: “Uganda police should work alongside Interpol to have Barbara Imaryo brought back into the country to face prosecution.”
During its investigations, the Committee also established that the entity is under staffed, besides the high staff turnover challenges stifling work at the entity.
“The Committee was concerned that ULC has no legal department despite the need for frequent legal advice and the high number of litigation cases. The top management has officers in acting capacity, while a number of lower staff are missing,” the report discovered.
Specifically, it was established that the “staff approved structure is 75; however, only 33 are in post and 42 positions are vacant. This indicates a staff workforce of 44 percent available to execute the Commission mandate.”
Legislators were also dismayed to learn that “there is a high turnover of accounting officers. For instance, within five years, the Commission—the report spelt out—“had four different accounting officers.”
Ombudsman Kamya’s troubles stemmed from the Auditor General’s report of Financial Year 2020/2021 that unearthed the ghost claimants compensated by the ULC.
Attempts by Sunday Monitor to get a comment from the ombudsman about recommendations of the report proved futile by press time. The Finance minister, meanwhile, told us “they are most welcome to investigate. That’s all I can say.”