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Katuntu Committee recommends refund of sh6bn ‘Presidential Handshake’

I suggest that on top of refunding the money, the Presidential Handshake beneficiaries each make a public apology – Anna Adeke

Kampala, Uganda | GODFREY SSALI | Uganda’s Parliament has overwhelmingly approved recommendations from its Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises requiring 42 public officials to refund Ushs 6 billion shared out for winning an oil tax arbitration case in London.

This was one of the nine recommendations made by the Committee on COSASE, chaired by Abdu Katuntu (FDC, Bugweri), following months of investigations into the reward, better known as the Presidential Handshake, by President Yoweri Museveni.

In January this year, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecss Kadaga asked the Committee on COSASE to investigate claims that the public officers solicited for a payment, honorarium, bonus or golden handshake totaling Shs 6billion contrary to standard practices of rewarding public officers.

The Katuntu committee was also asked to investigate the basis of determination of the beneficiaries to the bonus payment including the full account of the role of each beneficiary in the court cases. (SEE FULL REPORT PAGE 2)

During their investigations, beneficiaries denied soliciting for the reward and told the committee that it is common practice both in public and private sector governance to reward individuals for excellence.

Beneficiaries of the reward included Fred Ruhindi, who was Deputy Attorney General; Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, who was Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development;  Allen Kagina, Commissioner General, URA;  Doris Akol, Commissioner Board Affairs and Rulings, URA;  Jennifer Musisi, who was Commissioner Legal Services and Board Affairs, URA. Others included:  Finance Ministry’s Keith Muhakanizi;  Harriet Lwabi, who was the Ag. Solicitor General;  Christopher Gashirabake, the Director Legal Advisory Services in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs;  Peter Nyombi, who was the Attorney General and head of the Uganda government Legal and Technical Team.

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During the debate MPs said that none of the beneficiaries was entitled to the funds since they were performing their normal duties. Members demanded that the beneficiaries refund the money with interest since the money was meant to be invested. Legislators also proposed that the officers resign since they had lost moral ground and public trust to stay in the positions.

Further, legislators suggested that property from the 42 is attached to avoid the beneficiaries from refunding the money out of public funds.

“There are other more deserving people in this country. They showed impunity as they defended the reward while appearing before the Committee,” said  Anna Adeke (Ind., Youth/Female/National).

“I suggest that on top of refunding the money, they each make a public apology,” she added.

Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa said there was need for more time to have other government agencies carry out further investigations into what the committee observed and concluded. She promised to present the Report to the Leader of Government Business, who would then lay it before Cabinet.

“Cabinet will discuss the report and assign relevant agencies to start on the implementation of its recommendations,” said  Nankabirwa.

Akol, Kagina and Muhakanizi

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