15 May 2017, Kampala — The Ministry of Justice has failed to account for over Shs 1 billion, part of the supplementary expenditure it received to facilitate an oil arbitration case between the Ugandan government and Heritage Oil Ltd.
The ministry was part of a multi-institutional team set up to defend Uganda in an appeal filed by Heritage before the London based United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Tribunal. The oil giant claimed that the Ugandan government had wrongly slapped a tax on the gain realized from the sale of its stake to Tullow oil in two Production Sharing Agreements.
The ministry team, headed by the attorney general, provided research and legal assistance in the arbitration process, through which the country secured $400 million (about Shs 1.4 trillion) in capital gains tax. The ministry spent Shs 50 billion in the process.
When parliament’s committee on Commissions, State Authorities and Statutory Enterprises (COSASE), directed for an audit of all funds extended to the ministry, up to five billion shilling could not be accounted for.
Solicitor General Francis Atoke appeared before the committee in a bid to avail supporting documents and vouchers in relation to the queries raised. However, expenses amounting to Shs 1 billion still had no supporting documents.
These include an expenditure of Shs 726 million for which vouchers for activities cannot be traced and a payments of Shs 290 million, part of which was received by one signatory on behalf of 12 recipients. The committee observed that in some cases, acknowledgement lists have been attached but the officers who signed for the money are not stated.
Acting committee chair Fred Tumuhiirwe said that the receipts are suspicious.
“Those ones were cleared (Shs 4 billion), however, there are some other accountabilities that were not received today and we have given an extra two days because they were always complaining of time. We hope by Friday they will finish and the auditor general makes his report so we [also] complete our report”, said Tumuhiirwe.
Atoke on his part however stated that they would need more time to get all the supporting documents as required by the committee. He however acknowledges that some disbursements could have been made in a rush.
The committee also questioned per-diem payments which were over and above the official government rates. Over Shs 158 million was given out erroneously as per diem to eight officers of the ministry to cover a period of 12 days in the United Kingdom.
For each day the officers are entitled to per diem ranging from $360 (Shs 1.2 million) to $450 (1.5 million). But for the 12 days, the then attorney general Peter Nyombi received $12,865 (Shs 45 million) instead of the standard $6,000 (Shs 21 million).
Another recipient Robinah Rwakoojo received $ 7,540 (Shs 26 million) instead of $5,400 (Shs 19 million). Elizabeth Nakkungu received $6,820 ( Shs 24 million) instead of $4,680 (Shs 16 million) and Henry Oluka received $6,460 (Shs 23 million) instead of $4,320 (Shs 15 million) among others.
Atoke however stated that he did not know why it was that way, but emphasized that it could have included the cost of warm clothing and communication.