KAMPALA – Legislators on the Parliamentary Select Committee are investigating criteria used to pay traders who lost their goods during the South Sudan war in 2010 have questioned officials from the Ministry of Finance on the evidence they used to make payments to traders.
This was after the officials from the ministry, led by Deputy Secretary to Treasury, Patrick Ocailap confessed to have not seen the verification report from the Ministry of Trade of the traders to be paid before authorizing payment to a tune of UGX40b.
Mr. Ocailap told the Select Committee that the Minister of Finance Mr. Matia Kasaija had asked the Auditor General to conduct a special audit into the payment to the 10 companies that received compensation which raised questions from MPs on why the ministry only considered calling in the Auditor General after payments had been made.
Ms. Ann Nankabirwa (Kyankwanzi Woman) who also doubles as Chairperson of Select Committee questioned the ministry of Finance on what risk Uganda taxpayers stand if South Sudan goes ahead to constitute a unitary government and whether that might have an effect on the bilateral agreements the two governments signed.
“Even when the government of South Sudan gave us a guarantee I had to verify validity of that guarantee with the Central Bank and they said that guarantee is irrevocable. Even if they form a unitary government, they will have to pay the USD40m,” said Mr. Ocailap.
The MPs also tasked the ministry of Finance to explain why they paid only ten traders yet the ministry of Trade list had 23 companies that were meant to be paid.
Asked if the ministry of Finance appointed an officer on the verification Committee, Mr. Ocailap admitted not being aware if the Finance ministry was represented, a statement that raised more questions from Masaka Municipality’s Mathias Mpuuga who asked: “Are you in possession of any report from the joint verification committee? Then I will question the premises of how the companies were generated. How do people throw companies into your face and you pay?”
Mr. Ocailap asked for more time to cross check if the report existed arguing: “It must be there, I have not seen it from the distance or near.”
It should be recalled that following the war that ravaged the newest member of the African continent in 2012, South Sudan government entered into an agreement with Ugandan government to compensate the traders who supplied goods to South Sudan and according to the agreement, Uganda was to compensate the traders and South Sudan would reimburse the money at a later time.
The select committee was constituted by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga after complaints from other traders that they had been left out of the cash bonanza and further allegations were raised with claims that among the 10 companies that benefited from the payment, three of them where for the minister of State in Charge of Planning David Bahati.