The chairman of the Uganda Revenue Authority [URA] Board Simon Kagugube yesterday revealed that the board was not consulted when the Commissioner General Doris Akol paid out Shs6b from the tax body’s budget to selected government officials as a reward for winning two major oil cases.
Mr Kagugube told a Parliamentary Committee, which is investigating the controversial payments, that the Board only learnt that money was picked from URA coffers through media reports and Ms Akol only briefed the board about the matter last Friday [January 27], months after the bonuses were paid out.
But Ms Akol shot back at her Board chairman, insisting that there was no need to seek authority from the Board on grounds that “it [the Board] did not have a role to play”.
The Commissioner General, however, admitted that the Shs6b was withdrawn from the budget item of Legal Fees Expenses under the 2016/17 budget of URA.
This payment, MPs warned Akol, was in contravention of Section 160 (2) of the URA Act that stipulates that money withdrawn from URA has to be approved by the Board, which endorsement the Commissioner General did not bother to seek.
Though the URA Board meets every month as is required by the law [URA Act], Mr Kagugube explained that the Board is looking at “documentation and statutory provisions” to establish whether Ms Akol offended the law when she sanctioned the payments from Vote 141[URA’s Budget].
“The Board did not play any role in the payments because the matter was only brought to the Board last Friday. The Board came to know of the matter of the payments through the press. We were curious. We wanted to know what had happened. We too, like MPs, are trying to look at what happened. We are looking at the documentation and the statutory provisions…,”Mr Kagugube indicated.
Re-allocation of money from the URA budget to cater for the presidential handshake was also effected by Ms Akol without authorisation from the Board as spelt out by the law. Ms Akol rather chose to seek authority from the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, one of the beneficiaries, who referred her to the Finance Minister Matia Kasaija.
The Finance Minister then wrote to the Auditor General and ultimately, Shs6b was dipped out of URA’s accounts without the Board’s knowledge.
With the URA Board Chairman and Commissioner General singing from different hymn sheets, Committee Chairman Abdu Katuntu put Mr Kagugube on notice that there is “a disconnect between the Board and [URA] Management” led by Ms Akol, questioned how the accounting officer managed to withdraw Shs6b without the Board’s knowledge.”
“When Boards are appointed, they are supposed to oversee Management but we now have a situation where the Management is overseeing the Board. This is an opportunity for you [Kagugube] to examine your relationship with Management,” Mr Katuntu told the URA Board Chairman.
On her part, Ms Akol insisted that the Board is notified about monthly activities of revenue performance, human resource management and major procurements but argued that her supervisory authority had no business knowing that Shs6b was withdrawn from its vote.
“Considering that the transaction did not relate to the activities of URA and the transaction received the approval of the Secretary to the Treasury, it was not necessary to bring in the Board because the Board did not have any role to play. It was not irregular, “Ms Akol
Failed to explain
But the Commissioner General could not definitively explain why she categorised the Shs6b as unrelated to URA yet it was drawn from the tax-body’s coffers.
The URA team will re-appear before the Committee on Thursday to explain why laws were flouted when Shs6b was withdrawn from its accounts to reward selected government officials for pulling off two major oil cases.