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SPOTLIGHT: How Finance officials created fake companies to steal billions under South Sudan traders’ claims

Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and Permanent Secretary, Keith Muhakanizi. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – A group of individuals in the Ministry of Finance created fictitious companies and have benefitted from UGX 41billion so far paid as part of the compensation to Ugandan traders whose businesses were affected after violence flared in South Sudan between 2008 and in 2013, PML Daily has learnt.

In May, Parliament approved UGX778 billion to pay 22 claimants, who were verified to have duly exported goods to South Sudan.

However, this website has learnt that the Ministry of Finance has chosen to pay 10 companies, some of which were found to have non-existent in an audit by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

The 10 companies that have been benefitted from the UGX41 billion are Rubya Investments, Kibungo Enterprises, Aponye (U) Limited, Afro Kai Ltd, Swift Commodities Establishment Ltd, Sunrise Commodities, Ms Sophie Omari, Apo General Agencies, Ropani International and K.K Transporters.

However, it has emerged that Finance ignored a 2017 URA letter that questioned the existence of three of these companies. The companies queried include Rubya Investments Limited, Ms Sophie Omari and Kibungo Enterprises.

According to URA, there was no evidence that the three companies ever made any exports in the stated period of the war in South Sudan.

The tax collection body said that any company that exports goods is captured in their computer system on top of the goods they export. But it says the three companies did not exist.

“Data was extracted from our Asycuda System that was operating in those years before we upgraded to Asycuda World. We advise the ministry to use the said schedule as a basis for the recommendation of payments to the above claimants. For ease of reference, we have attached the said letter and the schedule,” URA Commissioner General Doris Akol’s August 7, 2017 letter to Finance minister Matia Kasaija reads in part.

“Another claim by Aponye (U) Ltd & Afro-Kai Limited for the supply of beans and maize corn was rejected on the premise that Aponye (U) Ltd and Afro-Kai Limited is not a registered company. But since Aponye (U) Ltd supplied Ministry of Defence SPLA, this claim is duplication. Thus the claimant should not be compensated,” the letter adds.

Highly placed sources said the President has picked interest in the matter and ordered for a thorough investigation.

Sources within the Finance ministry have told this website that a clique of officials within the Finance ministry created the companies and during the time of payment, they were requested to present bank guarantees and be paid yet the South Sudan government has already raised queries about their existence.

“These 10 were queried by the government of South Sudan for supplying hot air though they were cleared. How can somebody fast-track those who were queried? This is injustice,” said a source close to the matter.

When contacted, Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi said the accounting officers in his ministry will face it roughly should they be found culpable.

“It is a directive under the law that accounting officers must verify and satisfy themselves short of that they will be prosecuted, that is the general rule,” Mr Muhakanizi said.

The High Court last week issued an injunction, halting the ongoing verification process of traders who are due for payment.

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