VIDEO: We did not deserve handshake – URA staff

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PARLIAMENT. Six officials from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) who pocketed as much as Shs200m for defending Uganda’s tax claims against British oil firms yesterday admitted that they did not “do anything special” outside their scope of duty to deserve part of the controversial Shs6 billion payments.
The candid testimonies from the six URA officials were in contrast to repeated rebuttals by the tax body’s Commissioner General Doris Akol, who insists that all the 42 selected government officials were rewarded for extra-ordinary work in winning the case against Heritage Oil and Gas.

Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) heard that URA staff pocketed as much as Shs200m just for participating in tele-conferences while others bagged Shs50m for typing and photocopying documents.
Ms Syson Ainembabazi, who bagged Shs200m from the Oil Cash bonuses, confessed that she joined the team in “late 2012” but was somehow categorised by Ms Akol under Category A [Core Team].
In a blunt testimony to the committee, Mr Paul Ojambo, designated as an officer in the Litigation Division [Legal and Board Affairs], admitted that his work was “photocopying, binding and securing” what he called “voluminous” documents related to the case.

Meetings would drag up to 10pm with Mr Ojambo waiting to photocopy and bind necessary documents, the committee heard.



URA commissioner general, Ms Doris Akol

URA commissioner general, Ms Doris Akol

For his photocopying duties, Mr Ojambo was rewarded with Shs50m. He told the committee he earns a net salary of Shs1.68m.
“I did not participate directly [in the case]. I attended brainstorming sessions that would go on beyond working hours and sometimes go up to 10pm. One such day was December 3, 2013. I also filed proceedings. I was also photocopying and binding voluminous documents,” Mr Ojambo told the committee.
Mr Joseph Angura, a URA court clerk, admitted that his duty throughout the court case was to receive and secure pleadings and file them before different witnesses. For his efforts, Mr Angura, who indicated he earns Shs2.3m, was rewarded with Shs50m.

“I do not want to insinuate to this committee that there was something so special that I did. The handshake was paid to us not because we had done something extra-ordinary but because we were being appreciated. I do not want to say that I was under a lot of tension or duress. I do not want to insinuate so,” Mr Angura said.
Mr Angura admitted that he has not declared the money he received to the Inspectorate General of Government (IGG) as stipulated by the leadership code.
Ms Rose Adakun, a typist [administrative officer], whose role was photocopying and typing court pleadings also pocketed Shs50m as a reward for “excelling in her role”.
“I handled mail management and record keeping of the case. I typed pleadings and other correspondences between URA lawyers,” Ms Adakun said.

All the six officials maintained that they had no prior knowledge that money was to be deposited on their accounts as a reward for their involvement in the oil cases against Uganda.
Mr Rodney Golooba, a litigation supervisor, admitted that he had previously been considered for reward by URA when he was offered a scholarship to study a Masters in Oil and Gas in the United Kingdom.
“I am not saying that this was a special assignment to which I was entitled to a reward. As a legal officer, cannot say that I re-invented the wheel and wrote new laws. All I can say is that I played a role on the Ugandan matter,” Ms Golooba said.
The committee was specifically ordered by Parliament to investigate the basis of determination of beneficiaries to the bonus payments, including a full account of the role of each beneficiary in the court case.

Probe. Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises led by MP Abdu Katuntu [Bugweri County] is investigating how 42 government officials spent Shs52b to handle two key oil-related cases and later shared a presidential golden handshake of Shs6b.
Abuse. The committee is investigating whether Uganda Public Service Standing Orders were abused by the 42 officials who met the President and demanded for a reward.
Board not consulted. The Commissioner General Doris Akol says the Shs6b was withdrawn from the budget item of Legal Fees Expenses under the 2016/17 budget of URA.

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