Presidential Handshake: Lawyers Move to Sue URA’s Akol

URA Commissioner General Doris Akol

High Court in Kampala has been petitioned to grant permission to a whistle blower organization Legal Brains Trust (LBT) to sue the Commissioner General Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and 40 other government officials who shared amongst themselves cash bonuses in purported appreciation of their respective contributions regarding the recovery of tax arrears from Oil Companies Heritage and Tullow Uganda.

This is yet another one of the series of bad news for Mrs. Akol and the beneficiaries of the infamous Presidential Handshake, link following an almost unanimous public condemnation of this scandal, price and most recently a rejected Constitutional Court order blocking parliament from discussing it.

LBT want the respondents compelled to refund the shared 6billion shillings.

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The body is a civil society human rights watchdog, sick whose work entails engaging in public interest litigation and other initiatives to promote democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law.

LBT’s Legal Officer Catherine Nabasirye, who is represented in this application by Counsel Isaac K. Ssemakadde, on Monday this week, filed a request before the high court to launch this suit.

Commissioner General Akol has been picked in this case to represent the rest of the respondents because she is “the most suitable public officer…and was the one who paid the other offices the cash bonuses.”

In the court documents seen by this website, LBTs Nabasirye holds that the respondents received the impugned cash bonuses ‘through procedures and criteria that are unlawful, irrational, unfair, arbitrary and unjustifiable, and thus they ought to refund the monies to the national treasury.’

Nabasirye says in her affidavit, “On 2 January 2017, I noticed an investigative journalism report on a news website called revealing how a select group of public officers in different departments including URA had in August 2016 been “rewarded” with cash bonuses totaling approximately UGX 6,000,000,000/= (Uganda Shillings Six Billion) ostensibly as a “presidential handshake” for winning a capital gains tax case against Heritage Oil & Gas Ltd and/or Tullow Uganda Ltd.”

“Whereas the impugned cash bonuses had hitherto been a tightly guarded State secret, the Chimp Reports article was corroborated by subsequent press statements and a bundle of other documents hastily divulged by URA and concerned government agencies attached hereto marked,” she adds.

Nabasirye stresses that while the bonuses were signed off by President Yoweri Museveni after he was approached by the Commissioner General, the President had no authority to clear the payments because they had not been determined in a lawful, transparent, judicious, rational, fair and just manner.

“I also know that there was conflict of interest on the part of the respondent who not only generated the letter asking the President to reward the recipients with the impugned cash bonuses but also generated the list of recipients, determined the total sum to be paid to each recipient, and eventually pocketed UGX 240,000,000/=,” she stressed.

Nabasirye and LBT therefore want Mrs Akol and the rest of the defendants to be compelled to return the money to the national treasury.

She also suggests imposition of sanctions against each of the beneficiaries by bringing an appropriate action against them in their personal capacities and against the URA, Attorney General and Auditor General, among others.

When contacted, The URA Spokesperson Sarah Banage said she “and everyone else” was aware of the case at the High Court, but said the tax body was yet to be formally served.

“Everyone has seen that, we saw it on social media, but they haven’t brought the papers to us yet,” she said.

Counsel Semakadde however, informed us that following the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga’s recent demand to vacate the Constitutional Court order against Parliament discussing the so-called Presidential Handshake, LBT’s focus for now is shifted to finishing with this.

“Once we the court order is repealed, the date will be set for the High Court to grant us permission to sue the Commissioner General,” he said.


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