Tea girls and typists from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs pocketed Shs50 million each for serving tea to state attorneys who were involved in defending Uganda’s tax claims against British Oil firms, a parliamentary probe committee heard on Friday.
The candid testimonies by the junior staff ‘fly’ in the face of repeated rebuttals by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General, Ms Doris Akol and Solicitor General Mr Francis Atoke who insist that all the 42 government officials who benefitted from the disputed Shs6b pay-out were rewarded for doing “extra-ordinary work.” The former AG, Mr Fred Ruhindi also told the probe that he did not do anything outside his normal duties.
Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu on Friday heard that the staff in the Attorney General’s Chambers were each paid Shs50m in oil bonuses for serving tea and photocopying documents.
Mr Christopher Gashirabake, the Director of Legal and Advisory Services, convened a meeting on June 2, 2015 that categorised the beneficiaries from four government agencies and also included tea girls and typists among the support staff who would each bag Shs50m.
Mr Gashirabake insists the meeting did not record minutes on how tea girls were included among the beneficiaries. The junior staff appeared before the committee to answer to the question on: “the basis of determination of beneficiaries to the bonus payments, including a full account of the role of each beneficiary in the court case.”
Ms Namuwenge, listed as an office attendant in the Attorney General’s chamber, confessed that the work she handled during the oil cases was to serve tea and supervise meals for the officials who were convening meetings to defend Uganda’s tax claims.
“I used to come very early, prepare the board room and tea. The meetings used to take the whole day and I could also supervise lunch for them. I would show the waiters and waitresses where to put the plates, introduce the members on the team and make sure they were served very well. I know what all of these people eat,” Ms Namuwenge said.
Ms Namuwenge’s confession rebuts the official response presented by Ms Akol to the committee in which she stated that “Namuwenge provided logistical support to meetings throughout the entire court process,” Ms Namuwenge earns Shs213,000 but was rewarded with Shs50m in gross (Shs35m net] for ensuring that the meals of her bosses were in order.
Ms Nambwayo, who is listed as secretary in the Attorney General’s Chambers, also admitted that the work she did during the case was cleaning the chambers and making tea for bosses who would be holed up in meetings.
“My duties involved recording incoming and outgoing mails, delivering mails, photocopying and binding documents. I also had to ensure that offices are clean and are in order, as well as preparing tea for my bosses,” Ms Nambwayo said. Ms Nabwayo earns Shs420,000 and was rewarded with Shs35m for serving tea.
Ms Sylvia Nakibirango, listed as an office attendant in the Attorney General’s Chambers, pocketed Shs50m just for photocopying documents she claimed were of a “huge volume”.
“I was photocopying huge volumes. I would also deliver documents to URA and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I would perform any other task assigned to me,” Ms Nakibirango said.
Other Justice ministry officials who defended their pay on Friday are Ms Elizabeth Nankungu (Commissioner, Legal Advisory Services), Mr Martin Mwambutsya (State Attorney), Ms Mary Nankabirwa (Principal State Attorney), Mr George Kallemera (Senior State Attorney), Ms Robinah Rwakoojo and Ms Harriet Tukamushaba.
The committee resumes on Monday. The Bank of Uganda Governor, Mr Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, Auditor General John Muwanga and the Inspector General of Government, Justice Irene Mulyagonja are expected in the probe.
Mr Gashirabake, the director of Legal and Advisory Services, convened a meeting on June 2, 2015 that categorised the beneficiaries from four government agencies and also included tea girls and typists.