Oil Cash Bonuses was Minister's Priority - Auditor General

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In short
Auditor General John Muwanga has revealed to parliaments oil probe committee that the payment of Shillings six billion to 42 government officials was treated as a priority by the finance ministry.

Auditor General John Muwanga has revealed to parliament's oil probe committee that the payment of Shillings six billion to 42 government officials was treated as a priority by the finance ministry.
 
Muwanga was today appearing before the committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) investigating the Shillings six billion reward to 42 government officials for their role in a tax arbitration case between the Government of Uganda and Heritage Oil.
 
He told MPs that although Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General Doris Akol had requested finance for a total supplementary budget of Shillings 117 billion, finance minister Matia Kasaija wrote to him requesting for only Shillings six billion shillings.
 
Muwanga presented the committee with a 19th October 2016 letter authored by minister Kasaija indicating a total supplementary request of 117 billion shillings for the financial year 2016/2017 but with a specific attachment of treasury requisition for only six billion.
 
According to the breakdown of the Shillings 117 billion supplementary request by URA, the authority needed 120 million for top up of monthly retainer fees for board of directors, six billion for a "presidential handshake" to the 42 officials, 700 million for external travel budget and 111 billion for unfunded priorities.
 
When asked by COSASE chairperson Abdu Katuntu why six billion Shillings stood out and not the entire Shillings 117 billion request, Muwanga noted that it was the priority of the minister and he could only release an audit warrant as requested.
 
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Muwanga said that he issued an audit warrant for the Shillings six billion on November 1, 2016. An audit warrant is provided for under Article 154(3) of the Constitution and the Public Finance and Management Act, 2015. 

It is not necessarily a clearance of payments but a release warrant issued on condition that auditors have to go back and carry out post-audit of the expenditures to ascertain whether public funds were used in accordance with the rules and regulations.
 
Muwanga explained his action of issuing the audit warrant.
 
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Meanwhile, COSASE chairperson Abdu Katuntu directed Muwanga to audit the accounts of URA and establish the source of the Shillings six billion.
 
This was after contradicting information was tabled before the committee, with URA first stating that the presidential handshake was paid from the Authority's Tax Refund Account and later shifted position saying it was from the Legal Expenses budget.
 
Auditor General Muwanga undertook to file a report with the committee by Thursday on the source of the money.
 
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Finance Minister Matia Kasaija is expected before COSASE on Tuesday to explain his role in the payment of the six billion Shillings. He will be expected to answer the urgency that was behind the release of the money yet the whole supplementary budget requested by URA was Shillings 117 billion.

 

About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.