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URA Board: Akol Ignored Us on The Presidential Handshake

Akol and URA board members after a session with COSASE members

Chairman of the Ugandan Revenue Authority Board of Directors Simon Kgugube has revealed Monday that the board was never consulted and did not make any approvals for the payment of the Shs. 6Billion Presidential Handshake bonuses from the Tax body’s budget.

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The board chairman made the revelation on Monday while appearing before the Parliamentary Committee On Commissions, State Authorities & State Enterprises (COSASE) together with other board members and the URA Commissioner General Doris Akol.

During today’s sitting, the board chairman Kagugube revealed that while as the board they expected to have been updated by the URA management about the bonus payment, this was not done and that they only learnt about the Sh6bn handshake drawn from its accounts last Friday.

“The board didn’t play any role in the payment because the matter was not brought before the board, the board has come to learn on the matter through the media as anyone else,” Kagugube said.

“We were furious and interested and the management did bring a brief of the matter in our regular board meeting.”

According to the Chairman, the modus operandi is that Management makes budget estimates and sends them to the board for approval. Once approved, they are handed over to management for implementation. The board is then informed in the due course on how the budget is performing.

Kagugube noted, “If there is anything else about the budget that we need to know, then we expect to hear from them (Management). But the Board can only do that by receiving periodic reports from management. In situations where such information is not forthcoming, the board cannot effectively monitor the budget.”

In today’s session in which the Mrs Akol made her second appearance since last week, the committee’s attention was drawn by Rujumbura County MP Simon Turyamuhweza to Section 16 (2) of the URA Act, which appeared to have been manifestly breached by the Commissioner General, before she signed off the Shs. 6billion from URA coffers to the accounts of herself and 41 other government officials involved in a Capital Gains Tax case against two oil companies.

The Section states that “No expenditure shall be made out of the funds of the Authority, unless that expenditure is part of that expenditure approved by the board under the estimates of the Financial Year in which the expenditure is to be incurred or in the supplementary estimates of that year.”

In her defense however, Mrs Akol attempted without success to convince the Mps that the Presidential Handshake bonuses were not part of URA’s budget, and therefore needn’t be cleared by the board.

She noted that as the accounting officer, she was “directed” the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury (Keith Muhakanizi), to use funds from her budget to clear the bonuses and that these funds would later be replenished by the Ministry of the Finance through a supplementary budget.

Mps however didn’t buy into this argument.

The committee chair Hon Abdu Katuntu pointed out that Mr Muhakanizi had no powers to order URA on how to use its funds without the board’s approval.

“The money used was in the control of the board and the PS has no authority start ordering the Commissioner General on how to spend it, when the board doesn’t know. Institutions don’t run that way,” stressed Katuntu.

Hon Medard Lubega Seggona also butted in, questioning what would have happened if Parliament refused to pass the supplementary through which Muhakanizi promised to replenish the bonus funds, yet this money had already been dished out to the beneficiaries,.

“Replenishing the budget is not the functioning of the PS, but Parliament. Parliament can decline. You should know where the authority is and how the budget cycle works,” added Hon Katuntu.

More hearings on this matter will continue for the next one and half months, and soon Mr Muhakazi is expected to appear before the committee to give his side of the story.

 

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