Monday, June 26, 2017

#Uganda Attorney General says #OilHandShake should not be refunded - #Corruption #Nepotism

On Thursday last week, the committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) presented its report after a two-month investigation of the Shs 6 billion presidential handshake.
In its recommendations, the committee, chaired by Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri), demanded that the 42 government officials who benefitted from the bonus payment refund the money. OLIVE EYOTARU followed debate on the report and brings you excerpts from the proceedings.

Mwesigwa Rukutana (Deputy AG): I want to thank the chairperson of the committee for this detailed report. I am not taking the floor to challenge the veracity or recommendations of the report. However, I would like to note some slight contradictions which we should clear before debate.
In recommendation A, all funds paid out of URA account to the beneficiaries of the handshake should be refunded. Recommendation B is that all officers who flouted the law should be held accountable and in this vein, the IGG should institute investigations with the view to establish the culpability and possible offences.
Now I find these two recommendations rather contradictory. Suppose the IGG carries out investigations and finds out that actually, the officers are not culpable or guilty yet you have already condemned them to refund the money and to be held accountable? 
(Interruptions) Since it was a considered view that further investigations are required, why don’t we shelve all the other recommendations and uphold the recommendation that the IGG should institute investigations. Ordering somebody to make a refund is a punishment; you would have punished the person before he is duly investigated.
It is not my intention to challenge the veracity of the report but let’s be sober and say since more investigations are required, let us not subject the officers to punishment until the IGG carries out investigations...
Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri): In circumstances like this, we need to discuss issues soberly and without emotions. First of all, when the AG stood up, I expected him to have read the Public Finance Management Act. If he did read, I am surprised that he would raise that very issue.
Under the PFMA, sections 78, 79 and 80, there are two liabilities that are created. Under 79, criminal offices are created and when you look at our recommendations, we are talking about possible criminal offences. The issue about refund, we have clearly found out that the money was paid out contrary to the PFMA and the URA Act. We are not asking the IGG to investigate that.
There is already a finding by us and under the Act, if you have what we call refund, if you go by kindergarten English, it is money which you receive when you are not supposed to receive it or if you received more than what you were supposed to receive and then you refund what is not yours.
However, in the process, the committee notes that there are possibilities of criminal offences having been committed. But we are not a prosecuting agency as a committee of parliament. We have, therefore, referred that to the IGG. If the AG had addressed himself to Sections 78, 79 and 80, I would be surprised he would raise these issues.
Lastly, we have a conflict because the president was in a dilemma on this. The offices that are supposed to have advised him are the ones involved in this sort of thing. So, as you also take the advice of the AG, we should also take that into consideration.
Rukutuna: I have listened to the respectable, senior lawyer (point of procedure)
Katuntu: Hon Speaker, we need guidance from you. Our rules of procedure do not allow a member to speak on the same subject twice, except in a committee. Are we proceeding correctly for the learned AG who should really know these rules to speak on the same subject twice?
Kadaga: Since you had finished, you cannot come back...No (laughter).
David Abala (Ngora) (abridged): I want to refer to the bible. In Deuteronomy 20: 15, it says, “you shall not steal.” What I have seen is real theft of public funds by our officials. The officials ignored existing laws and procedures that are in place. You can imagine in URA they ignored the board and thought it was useless because they basically wanted money. I saw the real appetite for money during these meetings. They misled the president because of the real appetite for money.
If you look at this type of this thing, it shows negligence of duty, like the AG which is supposed to follow the $4 million. Up to date, that money is languishing outside this country and yet we are crying that there is no money...I agree with the recommendations that everyone whose name is mentioned here must be brought to book. The money must be refunded as early as immediately...
Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal municipality): When you go through the report, you can see that actually this group of individuals knew what they wanted and they were playing around with every office to ensure they get their catch. To me, this cannot qualify to be a reward.
We are not talking about civil servants who are earning less. These are highly-paid and taking big responsibilities for our country. For them to imagine, with all the facilitation, you are talking about Shs 56 billion. We know what it means in this package, if you are a careful person you can save something big out of it. What is really hurting is that how can we have in offices individuals of that character and yet from what has been publicized over the years they are looked at as the most angelic?
Geoffrey Macho (Busia Municipality): I don’t know...I really don’t know (laughter) where I can begin from. The recommendations of the committee are very right and timely because I see if we implement them; they will make the ruling NRM, which I belong to, become stronger...I see the AG cheering and this is what we talked about; conflict of interest. These are the problems we are facing in the NRM government.
People who would have advised the president are the people who are misadvising because of conflict of interest and eating. My mentor keeps telling people that this is Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo (term for no jokes) but we want to show Ugandans that this is Kisanja Hakuna Kukula (term for no stealing) and, as a result, I support the recommendation on basis that the image of Uganda must be protected because most of the things we do shock the region and world at large...these people must pay the money.
Denis Hamson Obua (Ajuri): In my 11 years of uninterrupted service as an MP, let me say that this report from Cosase is a landmark report. It is a report full of facts which are based on evidence and I can emphatically say it is conclusive.
In fact, debating this report is so difficult; it waters down the recommendations and findings of the committee. I would propose that we have limited debate and conclude this business. The report highlights the various provisions of the law which were raped in broad day- light. From the Constitution to URA Act, PFMA, to mention but a few, it highlights the political and legal wrongs committed, including all the atrocities.
I find myself very constrained to debate this report and I want to move that if the House could accept, maybe after some limited debate and with the mood in the House...
Anna Adeke (National Female Youth): I simply want to emphasize the moral fiber that the Shs 6 billion handshake is slowly but surely degenerating. It is unfortunate that the debate has come at a time where the public has pretty much settled on it and they made a statement on it.
However, if you felt the level of public outrage about the money that these individuals took, they were not in any way entitled to receive that money for something within their job descriptions. There are some young lawyers who were there reading the documents, burning the midnight candle but did not appear on the list. What are we showing them?
The rot in the civil service is terrible and it is the top officials who are the top culprits of that rot...I doubt that Doris Akol sat through the hours in the night to read these documents...other people did the work and were not rewarded.
Gaster Mugoya (Bukooli North): Most of these actions and omissions constitute what we call beaches under the leadership code. The decision taken by the president was bonafide and it is good. You came up with a chronology on analyzing facts and applying the facts to the law. That was a systematic way of bringing up the matter.
However, where you say that the decision of the president was bonafide; I find a slight iota of contradiction and auditor dictum, if he acted in good faith, honestly, openly, sincerely and without deceit or fraud, without stimulation or pretense, innocently in the attitude of trust and confidence, without notice of fraud, then I find that a big problem. How are you going now to criminalise the actions? (Point of clarification)
Odonga Otto (Aruu): I am seeking clarification from my learned friend who is attempting to do a very risky business (laughter). The committee chair just raised to the House that Sections 71, 79 and 80 of the PFMA require that before you spend public funds, there has to be a procedure for spending.
So, can you address your mind to the law? Are you aware that there are statutory offences under the Act that brings sanctions against those who do not comply with the law? What are you talking about and where did you come from before you came here? (laughter)
Mugoya: I am trained in judicial matters and there is no specific formula when you are analyzing a subject matter. It depends on the art when you are framing your facts…
Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya): This is the real time to act. Many of our government officials are so arrogant. If you read today’s paper, some of the beneficiaries were actually lamenting that they will not refund the funds; so, they are taking parliament for granted. They think we are toothless.
In fact we need to lead by example because one of the beneficiaries actually sits in this office of ours, Hon Slyvia Rwakoojo and hopefully she will be among the first beneficiaries to pay back.
One of the beneficiaries, Chris Kassami, died but I am of the view that if members cannot refund because the direct beneficiary died, his properties should be sold and if he has no property, the body should be exhumed and we can put on auction such that we get back our money (prolonged laughter).
Kadaga: Hon Mbwa, I want to remind you that under the Public Health Act, it is an offence to interfere with the dead.
Odria Alioni (Aringa South): The president has so many presidential advisors and these fall in different sectors, whether financial or political. Out of all these advisors together with the AG, how could His Excellency go ahead and support such an illegal expenditure?
I would request that a recommendation be made by the committee to the president that before such decisions are taken, he must do extensive consultations. It is a shame. If such is to continue, where is this country heading if all civil servants demand to be ‘hand-shaken’ for the good jobs they do?
Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East): I find it a bit perturbing that on several occasions, there is the blame or excuse game from the side of the president. If you recall the [Hassan] Basajjabalaba saga, the president was misled. When you come to this one now, the president was also misled. Now, we are in a situation where the president is being misled and the country is losing. Those people, most of the beneficiaries, the government gave them scholarships to study the oil and gas courses.
Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West): I would like to make a small amendment. According to the letter written by Doris Akol to the president [asking for the handshake], it indicated that they are going to buy plots of land to build houses or finish their unfinished houses. These are all appreciating goods that make profits.
When you take Shs 200 million from the bank today, after 2 years, it would have made some Shs 15 million. So, it would be very prudent and fair enough for these people not to return the actual money given to them without interest. At least this would be punishment enough because when you tell them to bring that money, it won’t be a good example to other public servants who have been doing such in arranging for themselves rewards in form of cash.
Silas Aogon (Kumi Municipality): The office of the AG is so vital to this House. It is very unfortunate that sometimes that office seems to abuse what it is supposed to be doing by way of trying to block debate of such pertinent nature. It is the right time as parliament to stamp our authority. Scientifically, this is the litmus test that we must go through as the 10th Parliament. If we don’t do the right thing, everybody will ignore us.
Therefore, whoever stands up to speak should be firm and defend the Constitution. There are people who are always undermining our committees because they get a lot of money in crooked ways. They know we share our little money with our voters and, therefore, what can we say to them? It should not be the president to refund the money but those who misused the money and we should do surveillance to make sure they don’t run to State House to get this money.
Kenneth Lubogo (Bulamogi): When you read this report, there is the external lawyer who was paid $8 million. The report does not give details on how much the external lawyer contributed and if there is nothing much the lawyer contributed, how much did we lose?
Matthias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality): The actions of the 9th Parliament are in part returning to haunt and hound some of us who were there. This challenge today should really bring us to reflection as to the need to amend the upstream and downstream oil legislations to bring back the powers of parliament to scrutinize all forms of agreements that relate to oil transactions. It partly explains why the minister inadvertently signed an agreement she had not read.
Secondly, I would like to imagine that we have a government officer charged with recovering taxes. Why would we have withholding tax not recovered? We would like to have a recommendation clearly indicting the Solicitor General for failure to recover withholding tax yet he paid the firm that handled that matter. I would like to invite parliament to add a clear recommendation on recovery of withholding tax and the IGG could interest herself in this. This money could have been somehow collected. This is unprecedented.
Katuntu wraps up: You may wish to sign these agreements but the problems that come with this are many and Hon Syda Bbumba will not be the last one. As far as Hon Bbumba, Hilary Onek and Daudi Migereko are concerned, we have suggested that the IGG should take up all these matters.
If any of them is found to have breached [the law] like we sort of see but didn’t go into detail, those people should be brought to book. That goes from the public officers who were involved in this handshake to the ministers who signed this profit sharing agreement (PSA). Our meeting with the president was clear on who has powers to waive the taxes and he did tell us that Hon Bbumba did it without consultation…
Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa: From the debates, it has been very clear that this matter needed to be handled the way it has been handled; time for people to be heard, for laws to be consulted, for everybody including the head of state to be consulted…It is also clear that more time is needed for other agencies to conclude what the committee has started.
For me, I have stood up here to say that government has been present when the committee tabled its report in this House and we have noted that more than 30 MPs have contributed and none of them opposed what the committee has recommended. My role is to carry the report with the recommendations to the leader of government business and to ensure that the report is laid in cabinet.

No comments:

Post a Comment