18 December 2013, Kampala – The report of the ad-hoc committee of parliament that was tasked to investigate allegations of bribery and corruption in the oil and gas sector failed to come up with any credible evidence to pin Tullow, the oil exploration firm at the centre of the allegations.
In October 2011 during a heated special session of Parliament, Western Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga tabled a dossier accusing Tullow Oil of bribing ministers Sam Kutesa, Hilary Onek and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.
According to Karuhanga’s documents, Kutesa, the Foreign Affairs minister, received various amounts of money on his bank accounts in Emirates Bank, Dubai, UAE and Bank of Valetta in Malta from Tullow, which amounted to roughly $10m.
Onek, then the minister for Energy, was accused of influence peddling by using his office to facilitate the recruitment of his relatives into one of the oil companies. The dossier had also accused Mbabazi of personally benefiting from the ‘alleged’ sale of production rights to Eni S.P.A, an Italian oil firm, from Heritage Oil and Gas. However, Heritage Oil’s interests were finally bought by Tullow Oil, and not Eni.
Following the allegations, Parliament resolved to institute a seven-member ad-hoc committee, headed by Michael Werikhe, to investigate the allegations and report back to the House. Recently, the ad-hoc committee released its report after two years of investigations. It exonerated the accused ministers of any wrongdoing and cleared Tullow oil of allegations of offering bribes.
For instance, the committee found out that Tullow Oil does not have any established business relationship with the Bank of Valletta.
“Therefore, it was concluded without any doubt that the companies and persons mentioned in a Letter Regatory do not hold any account with Bank of Valleta and the transaction receipts submitted are forgeries as no such transfer of monies had ever taken place,” the committee report reads.
The committee also did not find any evidence to corroborate allegations that Aidan Heavey, Tullow Oil’s chief executive officer, gave powers of attorney to Brian Glover, then Tullow Uganda general manager, authorising him to transfer various amounts of money to Sam Kutesa, through his company, East Africa Development Ltd in EFG private bank in London.
It was further established that East African Development Ltd, Kutesa’s alleged company, does not exist.
However, Dokolo Woman MP Cecelia Atim Ogwal, in her minority report, believes the committee’s investigation cannot be relied upon to clear Tullow and the three ministers.
For instance, she explains that by relying on pieces of correspondences between the director of public prosecutions and authorities in Malta, UAE and UK, as evidence in exonerating the implicated ministers, the committee was basically an extension of the executive’s own investigations and, therefore, could not reach an independent conclusion.
“As such, it is my considered opinion that the evidence tabled by the committee cannot be used as a basis of determining the veracity of the bribery allegations. The nature of corruption allegations required exceptional investigative capabilities which the committee did not possess,” Ogwal wrote.
– The Observer