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SPOTLIGHT: Former Finance PS Muhakanizi denies involvement in UGX10.6 billion compensation fraud

Muhakanizi (R) appearing before Cosase. On his right is Ocailap.

Muhakanizi (R) appearing before Cosase. On his right is Ocailap (PHOTO /Courtesy)

The former Secretary to the Treasury (PSST), Keith Muhakanizi has distanced himself from the processes that saw the disbursement of supplementary funds by the Finance Ministry for land compensations.

Muhakanizi said that he was on sick leave during the process of the payments adding that his deputy, Patrick Ocailap was in charge at the time.

He made his presentation while appearing before the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) chaired by Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi.

The supplementary budget issued to Uganda Land Commission for the purpose of payment of claimants was Shs10.6 billion.

Muhakanizi said that in November 2020, the Lands Minister wrote to the Finance Minister on a Presidential directive to settle claims for compensation, and requested the funds to be availed to Uganda Land Commission.

He added that the Finance Minister then submitted a supplementary schedule to Cabinet and Parliament, a request that was queried by Parliament at the time.
“Parliament set up a committee that investigated and cleared the expenditure. If Parliament had not approved the supplementary, then it would have ceased to be supplementary expenditure and no resources would have been expended,” said Muhakanizi.

He added that funds cannot be paid without a requisition from the responsible accounting officer, where in this case, the accounting officer at the Lands Ministry formally requisitioned for the funds.
“The requisition was made through accounting warrant No.156AW-2021-26 and it was on account of this requisition that the funds were processed and released to the accounting officer for onward payment to the claimants,” he added.

Committee Chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi observed that the directive to make the payments to the land claimants was made by the President. He then wondered why Ministry of Finance officials responded to a communication from their line minister.

Ocailap said that in disbursing the money to Uganda Land Commission, he acted on a letter from the Finance Minister.
“I concede that I did not follow up on the letter of the Presidential directive. I made an error in judgment to act on the minister’s communication,” Ocailap said.

Hon. Mpindi Bumali (Indep., PWD Representative) cited irregularities in information provided by officials appearing before the committee.
“You know what you are telling us is not the truth. You all have capacity to interpret the law correctly and I am wondering why you should do wrong things if you were entrusted to take care of the finances of this country,” he said.

Hon. Hashim Sulaiman (NRM, Nebbi Municipality) observed that the Finance Minister, while appearing before the Committee, said he had been misled into approving the supplementary funding.

He tasked Ocailap on why the Finance Ministry did not reject the supplementary funding since it allegedly did not come from the right source.
“Why should we go ahead and accept a supplementary which we know did not come from the right source? Parliament makes approvals but it comes last, so it cannot approve an illegality,” Sulaiman said.

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