Uganda oil bribes: Investigations fail to pin top govt officials


President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda

16 October 2013, Kampala – A two-year parliamentary investigation has failed to find evidence pinning top government officials for accepting bribes to influence the award of favourable oil contracts.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Ministers Sam Kutesa (Foreign Affairs) and Hillary Onek (Disaster Preparedness), had faced allegations of taking money from Heritage Oil and Gas and Tullow Plc. But MPs on the investigating ad hoc committee say they failed to find evidence of wrong doing.

In its draft report, the committee explains that the countries and agencies that were supposed to support the investigation did not cooperate.

“We have not received feedback from the countries that the ministers were alleged to have received the bribes from and, as a committee, we are restrained on the matter,” said a committee member who declined to be named because parliamentary rules bar members from disclosing findings of committee reports before they are tabled.

In 2011 after a heated oil debate, Parliament set up a probe committee to investigate bribery claims first tabled on the floor of the house by Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga.

During the debate, Karuhanga tabled documents indicating that Mbabazi, Onek and Kutesa received money from the said oil companies through the Bank of Mellon in the US and EFG Private Bank Ltd, in London. Other transactions are alleged to have been completed in Nairobi, Malta and United Arab Emirates.

The committee, chaired by former junior Housing Minister Michael Werikhe Kafabusa (Bunghoko South) also included Stephen Tashobya (Kajara), Julius Bigirwa Junjura (Buhaguzi), Freedom Grace Kwiyucwiny (Zombo Woman MP), Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo Woman MP), Hussein Kyanjo (Makindye West) and Joseph Matte (Bughendera).

They were tasked to investigate the bribery allegations and scrutinise all agreements, revenues and costs incurred by government in the sector, and report back in three months, ending in January 2012.

MPs made one trip to the United Arab Emirates but they did not get sufficient information to back up the allegations. Attempts to meet the then US Ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, and his British counterpart, Martin Shearman hit a snag after the two officials claimed diplomatic immunity and refused to appear before the committee.

There were calls for the ministers to step aside to allow a freer investigation. While Kutesa stepped aside, Mbabazi and Onek refused. Subsequently, the committee’s proceedings were suspended after Kampala lawyer Severino Twinobusingye sued Parliament for compelling Mbabazi to step aside.

On Monday committee Chairman Werikhe Kafabusa said their report would be ready in early November.

“We are going through our final draft and hopefully any time the house resumes we shall be ready to report,” Werikhe said.

– The Observer

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