The Auditor General (AG) John Muwanga was fully aware of the dubious Shs 6bn presidential handshake doled out to Uganda Revenue Authority lawyers and government officials in the Heritage capital gains tax dispute.
The official correspondences between Muwanga and Finance Minister Matia Kasaija confirm the latter knew very well he was giving a green light to the payments which have stirred unprecedented public outcry.
According to the independent Daily Monitor, Muwanga is quoted as saying, “granting an audit warrant is a constitutional obligation…,” adding, “this should not be confused with authorizing payments because I cannot approve what I have not audited.”
In the same newspaper article dated January 8, 2016 under the headline, ‘Auditor General denies clearing Shs 6bn oil cash,’ prominent lawmaker Nandala Mafabi said he was informed by sources in URA that “the AG was deliberately kept in the dark and he only issued an audit warrant for the supplementary under article 154 (3) of the Constitution.”
Mafabi added: “They did not disclose the details of the expenditure.”
However, despite all these denials, ChimpReports has seen letters where Kasaija explicitly indicates to the AG that the request for the Audit Warrant was meant for the presidential handshake.
On October 19, 2016, Kasaija wrote to Muwanga a note titled “Request for supplementary of Shs 6bn for the “presidential handshake” for the Heritage oil and gas case.’”
The Finance Minister added: “Consistent with Article 154 (1) (2) (3), 156 (2) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, and Section 25 of the Public Finance Management Act (Amendment) 2015, I request you to authorise supplementary expenditure of Shs 6bn to reinstate URA’s budget in lieu of the funds that were paid to the winning team In the case between government of Uganda and Heritage Oil & Gas Company.”
Kasaija further referred Muwanga to the “attached” letter Ref: URA/CG/10.0 dated August 15, from URA Commissioner General Doris Akol requesting for a supplementary budget for several things including the handshake.
As if this was no clearer enough, Kasaija said the supplementary budget should be charged against vote 141-Uganda Revenue Authority.
In his response on November 1, 2016, Muwanga cited sections of the Constitution which he affirmed allowed him to “grant a credit to the treasury on the Consolidated Fund account with Bank of Uganda Kampala to the tune of Shs 6bn… (Vote 141: Supplementary Recurrent Budget).”
He promised a post-audit of the funds, adding, “The expenditure shall be subjected to a post audit procedure and matters arising there from shall be subjected to accountability laws and regulations thereof.”
Kasaija writing to Muwanga about the oil cash payments
Muwanga’s move could be seen as an attempt to deny responsibility in the controversial oil payments.
While presenting the institution’s annual performance reports and value for money audits for Financial Year ended June 2016 to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, the AG feigned ignorance about the entire dubious oil tax payments.
“We have equally seen the media reports on the bonuses and we are certainly going to check on the anomalies involved,” he said at Parliament on January 4.
URA Communications Boss, Sarah Banage said in a statement this week, “The Auditor General duly issued an audit warrant to authorize spending.”
This is the first time in recent years that the office of Auditor General is coming under such intense public scrutiny for reportedly doing a shoddy job.
The AG is responsible for auditing and reporting on financial statements of all government ministries, departments, offices and agencies, offices and organizations operating under the legislative authority, Independent Commissions and Independent Offices established in accordance with the Constitution and organizations operating under the judicial authority.
The controversial oil payments have since rattled the nation and attracted condemnation from the civil society, NRM officials and general public.
DP President Norbert Mao has since appealed to implicated officials to return the “bounty” to the public coffers.