What you need to know:
- The minister admitted that he did not have the time to read all the documents.
Finance minister Matia Kasaija yesterday admitted that his ministry erroneously approved a supplementary budget amounting to Shs10.6 billion to Uganda Land Commission (ULC), even when the latter did not request for it.
Appearing before the Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase), Mr Kasaija said former permanent secretary Keith Muhakanizi should have rejected the demand letter written by the then minister of Lands, Ms Beti Kamya.
Mr Kasaija had initially told the committee that the ministry had followed all the required procedures before the budget was finally approved.
But when the legislators put him to task to explain how the process was originated, he admitted that the supplementary budget should have been started by the accounting officer of ULC but not based on a letter written by the minister.
“The conclusion is that the Lands minister shouldn’t have initiated the supplementary request. It was in error and I can’t deny that. If we followed the law strictly, my ministry shouldn’t have accepted this and we should have rejected it and said, ‘please Uganda land commission, put in your request,’” Mr Kasaija told the committee.
As to whether he carried out due diligence before signing the supplementary request, the minister admitted that he did not have the time to read all the documents.
“There are thousands of documents to be read through and sign. My assumption is that we have technical staff who prepare these documents and I believe they carry out due diligence so when they bring these documents, I sign them,” Mr Kasaija said, to the chagrin of the committee members.
In November 2020, Ms Kamya wrote to the Finance minister, requesting money to clear six claimants after they reportedly petitioned both the President and the Lands minister.
Ms Kamya in her letter told the Finance minister that she had received a directive from the President to pay the claimants, but did not submit a copy of the written presidential directive.
However, ULC chairperson Beatrice Byenkya told Parliament that her commission had not requested for the money.
Mr Nkunyingi Muwada (Kyadondo East), wondered how Mr Kasaija would commit the government to pay the money when he was aware that there was a disagreement between Ms Kamya and Ms Byenkya.
But Mr Kasaija asked the committee to invite Mr Muhakanizi and the accountant general, Mr Lawrence Semakula, to explain how they originated the supplementary budget without the request of ULC.
“The solution to this issue is to get down to the root of the issue and to get that, you need to invite the former permanent secretary Keith Muhakanizi. He will be in a better position to explain this.
You also invite the accountant general because he is the final person who sees that everything goes as planned,” he said.
Committee members Joyce Bagala (Mityana Woman), Nathan Ithungo (Kashari South) and Yusuf Nsibambi (Mawokota North) all asked Kasaija to resign over the anomaly.
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Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, the committee chairperson, said Mr Kasaija must take the political responsibility for signing the documents without due diligence and yet ULC had identified some of the claimants as ghosts.