Minister for the Presidency Frank Tumwebaze has called for a meeting with the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Ms Irene Mulyagonja and the new Attorney General Freddie Ruhindi to resolve the impasse between the parties over the payment of a Shs29 billion retirement benefits to former intelligence staff of the Internal Security Organisation (ISO).
Sunday Monitor has established the meeting will take place on April 23 at Mr Tumwebaze’s office in Kampala. The impasse over the payment to the former spies has sparked a chain of protracted legal and administrative battles.
Mr Tumwebaze was tasked by President Museveni to lead the discussions in 2013 after High Court awarded the former spies Shs72.4 billion in terminal benefits following their retirement in 1995.
Mr Tumwebaze said he called the meeting because the matter had become complex, with different parties suing and counter-suing each other, an undesirable scenario the government wants to cure.
“The IGG stopped payments after she discovered irregularities in the payments. We cannot ignore this aice. On the other hand, Mr Muhakanizi is making some conditions before making further payment and he is right. But above all, these people are supposed to be paid because we signed an MoU [Memorandum of Understating] with them,” Mr Tumwebaze noted. He warned that if the matter is not handled properly, it might cost government more money.
In 2005, three former spies Bernard Kamugisha, Jamal Kitandwe and Jeff Kiwanuka, through their association Uganda Veterans of Internal Security Organisation (UVETISO), sued government in the High Court on behalf of 500 others seeking Shs72.4 billion in gratuity.
However, the President initiated out-of-court negotiations with the former state operatives and the claim was brought down to Shs39 billion.
UVETISO also claims to represent interests of about 1,078 former spies.
However, when the treasury disbursed the initial Shs10 billion to them, the IGG received and investigated allegations that the money had been abused. The IGG halted further payment until the former operatives submitted satisfactory accountability for the initial Shs10b.
In her report, IGG Irene Mulyagonja indicated that 70 per cent of the Shs10 billion had been pocketed by undeserving beneficiaries. She directed ministry of Finance through Mr Muhakanizi to freeze further payments. UVETISO, however, insisted the ministry had no obligation to demand accountability from them because it is their money.
Another group of 198 former operatives have petitioned court contesting the government payment to UVETISO and challenging the MoU between government’s and the veterans’ body.
UVETISO is also suing the IGG and Finance ministry in the High Court for violation of the MoU provisions. UVETISO has filed another petition at the Constitutional Court seeking orders to quash the IGG’s earlier orders which halted the payment.
The IGG has also filed a counter-petition in the Constitutional Court seeking to reverse the decision of the High Court which stopped her from defending herself in the case where the veteran spies sued her office.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor