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Parliament's 'Oil Cash Bonus' Probe Starts

The committee was established by a resolution of Parliament calling for thorough investigations into the controversial payment of six billion Shillings to individuals who were involved a tax arbitration case between the Government of Uganda and Heritage Oil.

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The much anticipated probe into the payment of oil cash bonuses to select government officials is due to start on Tuesday.  The investigations will be led by the Parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu.

The committee was established by a resolution of Parliament calling for thorough investigations into the controversial payment of six billion Shillings to individuals who were involved a tax arbitration case between the Government of Uganda and Heritage Oil.

Up to 42 government officials shared the bonus as a token of appreciation for helping Uganda secure USD 400 million (1.4 trillion Shillings) in capital gains tax from Heritage Oil's sale of its stake to Tullow.

Heritage oil had filed an appeal claiming that the Ugandan government had wrongly slapped a tax on the gain realized on the sale of its interests in two Production Sharing Agreements and demanded that the money be reimbursed. The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Tribunal in London ruled in favor of Uganda.

But members of parliament disputed the bonus now referred to as the ‘presidential handshake; and resolved that the matter be investigated further to establish claims that public officers solicited for the payment of the bonuses from the President contrary to standard practices of rewarding public officers.

The Committee will also establish how the beneficiaries were selected, examine whether clear procedures were followed in the disbursement of the funds and scrutinize all supplementary requests and other budget allocations provided to facilitate public officers in the court processes in Uganda and abroad.

On its first day of work, the committee will cross examine Mbarara municipality MP Michael Tusiime, the mover of the motion that called for a parliamentary probe into the payments. It will also meet the seconders of the motion who include, among others, Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba, Usuk County Peter Ogwang, Bukedea Woman MP Anita Among and Ajuri County MP Denis Hamson Obua.

Katuntu said that the committee will summon the head of public service John Mitala after meeting the legislators.

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The committee has two months within which to probe and report back to parliament.

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