Katuntu to head Oil cash bonanza investigation

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Parliament. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga yesterday listed terms of reference for the Parliament’s committee that will investigate how 42 unidentified government officials spent Shs52b to handle two key oil-related cases and later shared a presidential golden handshake of Shs6 billion .
The Speaker ruled that the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) led by the Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu will lead the wide-ranging formal inquiries into the dubious payments, rejecting proposals to institute a Select Committee.

After a debate that dragged into the early hours of Wednesday night, MPs put their political allegiances aside and voted to investigate the payments, rejecting government’s defence that the rewards were in line with international governance practice and Public Service Standing Orders.
Although there were deviations on which committee should investigate what some members called abuse of oil money, the lawmakers later resolved that Katuntu Committee deals with the matter.
Government was more open to the proposal of a Select Committee investigating the controversial oil bonuses after President Museveni was warned by his party MPs during a Tuesday caucus meeting that the Opposition had hijacked the inquiry and would use it to politically bury him [Mr Museveni].

The Committee will investigate whether Uganda Public Service Standing Orders were abused by the 42 officials who met the President and demanded for a reward after winning two separate cases against Heritage Oil and Gas Company and Tullow Oil
The committee will also investigate why Shs52b in supplementary requests was advanced to mostly Justice Ministry officials across six financial years yet the government knew of the ongoing oil cases and could have budgeted beforehand.
“…Scrutinise all supplementary requests and other budget allocations provided to the public officers in facilitating the court processes in Uganda and abroad. Examine whether all the proper and legal procedures under the laws of Uganda were followed in making the alleged payments,” Ms Kadaga directed the committee.

Mr Katuntu’s committee will also “investigate claims that public officers solicited for a payment, honorarium, bonus or golden handshake totalling Shs6b from the President contrary to standard practices of rewarding public officers.”
The Shs6b has stirred controversy and clashed government branches, with the Judiciary sucked in when the Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma banned an imminent Parliament investigation into the matter, prompting the Speaker to suspend Parliament and protest to the President. Ms Kadaga slammed Justice Kavuma’s order as ‘stupid’ and warned of “extremism” in the Judiciary while the President warned MPs that the legislature is not God.

URA Commissioner General Doris Akol, who kick-started the demand for the money and later superintended distribution of the Shs6 billion christened the ‘presidential handshake’ will be of particular interest to the inquiries.
Other top government officials lined up for investigation are Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, KCCA executive director Jennifer Musisi, Deputy Solicitor General Christopher Gashirabake and the Unra executive director Allen Kagina.

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