The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Hon. Matia Kasaija, has apologised for the Shs10.6 billion supplementary budget for Uganda Land Commission (ULC) to pay land claimants in Buganda and Bunyoro sub-regions in the Financial Year 2020/2021.
Kasaija admitted that the request for the supplementary was an illegality and erroneously approved without following the rightful procedures in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, 2015.
Kasaija made the admission while appearing before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) on Tuesday, 31 May 2022. The committee is investigating the origin of the supplementary after the Auditor General’s report raised a red flag.
Preliminary investigations show that the legal procedures were flouted while processing the supplementary which was allotted to benefit six land claimants some of whom were allegedly ghost beneficiaries.
Initially, Kasaija in his presentation said that supplementary was legal and binding and that it went through all the established government procedures in accordance with the law before it was approved.
However, when the committee interrogated him further on the legal procedures of initiating a supplementary, the minister was quick to apologize and accepted that there were some irregularities in the process.
“This supplementary was in error; it was not supposed to be initiated by the Minister of Lands. If you are to follow the law strictly, then my ministry should have rejected this and should not have approved it. It is the Uganda Land Commission that should have sent in the request [for a supplementary] and not the Minister of Lands,” Kasaija said.
According to Kasaija, the supplementary budget in question was initiated by the then Minister of Lands, Hon. Beti Kamya on 12 March 2021 who requested the Ministry of Finance to avail Shs10.62 billion for ULC to compensate six land claimants as reportedly directed by the President.
However, he could not furnish the committee with the alleged letter from the President.
The six land claimants who benefited from the Shs10.6 billion supplementary are, Kasiya Rwabukurukuru (Shs6.43 billion), Stephen Peter Nagenda (Shs1.06 billion), Julius Busuulwa (Shs1.4 billion), Natalia Namuli (Shs1.6 billion), Yisaka Lwakana (Shs125.3 million), and Geoffrey Mugisha (Shs1.49 billion).
“I think we should ask Hon. Beti Kamya to give us a copy of this letter from the President because I do not have a copy but I will check if I was given one,” he said.
Kasaija faulted his technical staff for misguiding him into approving a supplementary request which was not initiated by the end-user agency.
He further proposed that the committee summons the then Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, to explain some of the illegalities surrounding the said supplementary.
The MPs challenged the minister to always do due diligence before approving proposals that may result in gross loss and misuse of public funds.
“Why does our Finance Minister not read these documents and do proper due diligence before signing them? Your signature is a very powerful one because it releases money and so on. You should have done due diligence by being sure who is initiating the supplementary and the whereabouts of the presidential directive,” COSASE chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi said.
Mityana District Woman Representative, Hon. Joyce Bagala called upon the Minister of Finance to reign over his ‘misleading’ technical staff and resign if he feels overwhelmed by government duties.
“It sounds to me that the minister is overwhelmed by the work he is doing and if he feels so, then he should resign. And if you [minister] feel the technical officers have failed you, then why not take action against them because it is not the first time you have told this committee that you have been failed by your technical staff,” Bagala said.