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Uganda’s tax chief taken to task over oil bonus

Uganda’s revenue authority boss was hard pressed to explain why 42 government officials received $1.7 million in bonuses for representing the country in an international tax oil dispute, a duty that was already part of their job mandate.

Doris Akol, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA’s) commissioner-general appeared before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that is investigating the controversial payout dubbed the ‘presidential handshake’.

President Yoweri Museveni authorised the reward last May without parliamentary approval, a move which has sparked public outrage since it leaked.

The money was shared by 42 government officials from URA, including Ms Akol, the Attorney-General’s office and the Ministry of Finance.

However, there have been allegations that some names could have been “smuggled” onto the list prompting the president to call for an investigation last week.

Ms Akol responding to queries by Parliament’s Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) said that the bonus was requested from the president who had promised to reward them should they succeed in the tax dispute.

“The request was initiated by the Attorney-General, following up on a promise by the president to appreciate the team of government officials who worked on the arbitration,” Ms Akol said.

But the MPs could hear none of it.

“I want to advise that you go read carefully the provisions in the Public Service Code of Conduct, the Leadership Code Act and the Anti-Corruption Act and other laws on what they say about solicitation,” Mr Abdul Katuntu, the chairman of Cosase told her.

The URA chief, however, had an even more difficult time when she was asked about the number of persons on the bonus list.

She failed to explain how the record grew to 42 from 24 people initially listed.

Ms Akol said she had categorised the beneficiaries into three groups: core, non-core and support staff.

The MPs demanded that she produces passports, boarding passes and minutes of meetings of the government team that worked on the arbitration case in London.

The officials were awarded the money after winning a capital gains tax case against British explorer firms Heritage Oil and Gas and Tullow Oil following a farm down of the former’s operations in Uganda’s Albertine Basin to the latter.

Written by PH

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