COSASE probes Attorney General over “Golden Handshake”

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga and his predecessors, Peter Nyombi and Fred Ruhindi have today Tuesday 14th February 2017 appeared before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to explain their involvement in the 'golden handshake'.

Ruhindi and Nyombi, who were invited under the terms of reference guiding the investigations, excused themselves from the Committee, stating that the payments were effected when they had vacated the office of the Attorney General.

Byaruhanga informed the Committee that he had spoken to the President, H.E. Yoweri Museveni, who gave him a go-ahead, whereupon he then initiated the "handshake" lawfully.

Quoting Article 98 and 99 of the Constitution, he said the President as the fountain of honour and Head of the Executive is empowered as the source of all honours and privileges to award exemplary service and ethical performance.

The Solicitor General, Francis Atoke, while representing the team from the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs said that the President, in a meeting held on 17th May 2015 at his home in Rwakitura, initiated the 'golden handshake.' He denied soliciting for the payment of the monies.

Atooke, who is also the Accounting Officer at the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, claimed that he was unaware of the monetary rewards and like the rest of the beneficiaries, received a payment of Shs129 million on his bank account.

"I did not have any clue that I was going to receive money, in fact, I learnt about it when I received a call from Uganda Revenue Authority," he said.

When asked to explain why some members who were involved in the oil tax arbitration case, such as Patricia Mutesi, were not paid, Atooke referred the Committee to the Inspector General of Government whom he said gave a directive not to pay Mutesi because she was not an employee of the NSSF.

The Committee, Chaired by Hon. Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri County), requested the Attorney General to provide legal guidance on the presidential prerogative, saying that without such regulations, more cases of "rewards" were bound to occur.

Katuntu also asked the Attorney General to provide all documentation for accountability of the funds, which were appropriated by Parliament for the oil tax arbitration case in London.

The Committee directed that Atoke avail to the Committee the contract agreement between the Ugandan Government and private lawyers who were involved in the oil tax case.

A total of 42 public officers were awarded Shs6 billion after winning the oil tax arbitration case between the Government of Uganda and Heritage Oil and Gas. The beneficiaries were categorised into core, non-core and support staff.

Source: Parliament of Uganda