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PAC questions solicitor general over court awards

Solicitor General Francis Atoke, the Justice Ministry Principal Accountant James Oundo appearing before PAC. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Solicitor General Francis Atoke has denied responsibility for accumulation of court awards worth 43 billion shillings.

Atoke was responding to a query from Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) -central government on why the ministry incurred liabilities during the 2018/2019 financial year.

Atoke led a team of officials from the ministry on Wednesday to respond to several issues raised in the Auditor General’s report for the financial year ending June 2019.

The matter arose when MPs on the committee chaired by Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi questioned an accrued cost of Shillings 18 bn which was above the ministry’s approved annual budget of Shillings 138.2 bn for the year in review.

Atoke noted that he had no control over the funds since they were court awards and compensations accrued from court cases lost by the government.

The Ministry’s Principal Accountant James Oundo told MPs that out of the total liability of Shillings 43.9 billion, the ministry had only received a budget of Shillings 25.9 billion during the financial year to clear outstanding commitments hence a balance of Shillings 18 billion in liabilities.

In his report, the Auditor General John Muwanga noted that in court cases ruled against the government, the court awarded interest of 6 percent to 25 percent and sometimes even 40 percent.

He further observed that as a result of the government’s failure to pay these court awards on time, these have accumulated interest. He added that in some cases it has exceeded the principle award. He noted that interest totaling to Shillings 183.7 billion has accumulated over the years.

By the end of June 2019, the total stock of domestic arrears stood at Shillings 557.3 billion down from Shillings 663.9 billion the previous year.

Atoke lamented that the ministry carries an unnecessary burden of paying awards and compensations for wrongs committed by other government departments but he revealed that all damages from cases after June 2016 are being paid for by the offending ministries and departments.

Mafabi demanded a complete breakdown of the 43.9 billion in domestic arrears by Friday.

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