A group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working in the areas of Oil Governance and Transparency have implored government to end to secrecy in the oil sub sector. Read More
Civil Society Organizations working on land issues in the oil rich region have launched a sharing platform dubbed the Albertine Region Land Platform (ARLP) to devise mechanisms to curb the rampant land disputes in the region. Read More
Parliament of Uganda has set up a select committee to investigate the Shs 6bn oil cash payouts to 42 senior government officials. This is the second time the legislative branch of government has probed the executive on oil revenues.
Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday last week directed the Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) Committee, chaired by Bugweri MP, Hon. Abdul Katuntu to handle the investigation and report to the House in two months.
The motion to set up a select committee was moved by Mbarara Municipality MP, Michael Tusiime last week in a stormy plenary session that extended into the night.
Hon. Tusiime stated that Government had hired a foreign law firm; Curtis Mallet-Provost, Colt and Mosle LLP to represent the country in the law suits and was already costly to the country.
“The American law firm was hired to represent in the $ 404 million capital gains tax dispute adjudicated in London at a cost of $ 10 million dollars,” he argued, adding that it is prudent for investigate the oil cash payouts and especially the procedures that were followed to reward the officials.
According to Hon. Alex Ruhunda, Fort Portal Municipality MP, the move to setup a committee is not to witch-hunt the beneficiaries but a move to create transparency on the issue.
Winfred Niwagaba, Ndorwa East MP concurred with Hon. Ruhunda arguing that it is time for government to demonstrate its tenacity to fight corruption.
“We will be glad to see the perpetuators not only appear before the Anti- Corruption Court, but refund the Shs 6bn back to the Petroleum Fund,” he said.
However, William Byaruhanga defended the payouts, arguing that the case was the first of time in the history of the country, both in terms of complexity and the magnitude of the money involved. Kadaga said, when the team won the case, she wrote a letter thanking them for fighting for the interests of the country.
This is the second time in less than five years that parliament is instituting a probe committee to investigate issues of corruption and alleged misuse of oil revenues.
In 2011, Parliament set up an Adhoc Committee, chaired by Michael Werikhe, the then chairperson of Natural Resources Committee, to investigate alleged corruption in the sector.
A dossier had been tabled before the House by MP Gerald Karuhanga that implicated Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, Ministers Sam Kutesa and former Energy Minister, Hilary Onek in corruption. The committee report exonerated the politicians of corruption. The country waits the speaker to name the select committee.
BUNYORO LEADERS UNHAPPY
Buliisa county Member of Parliament, Hon. Stephen Mukitale Biraahwa revealed that his constituency, despite housing over 26 oil wells has not benefited from the Capital Gains Tax recovered by government.
“The money would have been ploughed back in the oil sector to prepare for Uganda’s journey towards commercial oil production,” Hon. Biraahwa who sits on the parliamentary committee on National Economy told Oil in Uganda.
He added that the revenues earned so far should be in improving roads in the oil region, training the population, conducting systematic survey and demarcation of land, building capacities of local suppliers and environmental compliance among others.
“What is surprising communities hosting oil and gas activities is that the money is being shared in Kampala by government officials without considering the interests of the industry and the communities” he said.
Bugahya County Member of Parliament, Hon.Pius Wakabi demanded that the beneficiaries who received the oil cash should refund it immediately.
Hon. Wakabi whose constituency has over six oil wells, stated that it is shocking that the money was shared at a time when teachers demand salary increment and lecturers striking over remuneration.
Litmus test for Uganda?
The management of revenues from oil is a litmus test for Uganda. Many activists have questioned whether the petroleum resource will be a blessing or a curse to the country citing scenarios in oil-producing countries in Africa such as Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Angola, Sudan, Chad, and Nigeria among others.
Report by Edward Ssekika and our Hoima Correspondent.
Gold miners in Mubende district have commended the safety campaign championed by Action Aid international to promote health and safety standards in the mines.
During a recent visit by Oil in Uganda to the gold mines early this year, several miners in Kitumbi sub county, Mubende District expressed their gratitude to Action Aid International for providing them with safety gears and providing a platform for awareness.
Nakimuli Shamim, one of the beneficiaries explained that she was unaware of the importance of using safety gear while washing the gold dust.
“Now that I understand how important this safety gear is, I can now wash up to 8 basins of gold dust without worrying about getting sick from exposure to mercury,” she narrated to Oil in Uganda.
“Before, I used to develop itchy skin rashes but my hands are now covered with gloves and I also have gum boots to protect my legs,” she noted.
Nakimuli adds that using the safety gear will eventually see her walk home with a high income since she will be able to work for longer hours.
As for Nalukuuma Juliet who has been in the gold industry for three years, the use of safety gear had never crossed her mind.
She narrates that she would endure the tedious process of washing the gold dust despite the fact that her hands always developed small painful swellings.
“If you are looking for money, you have to endure and keep working even if you have those small swellings. If you do not work you cannot be paid,” she stated.
Nalukuuma further adds that often, it is uncomfortable working under the sun while wearing the safety gear but one has to persevere.
According to Zziwa Hussein, a grinding machine operator, he is now protected from the dust emitted during the crashing process that has made him suffer from constant chest pains.
I now hope that the chest pains from inhaling too much dust will reduce with this safety gear,” he says.
In August 2016, over 80 miners in Lubaali, Lujjinji B and Kampala mining sites in Mubende district received safety gears including gumboots, waterproof overalls, nose masks and helmets from Action Aid International in a bid to promote health and safety conditions in mines.
Report by Josephine Nabaale
Following the oil cash bonanza in which 42 top government officials were rewarded with colossal sums of ‘oil money’, activists want an audit of the entire oil sector.
This move follows a public uproar, over ‘the ‘scandal’ in which 42 top government officials, were paid Shs 6bn (about $1,656,000) as a reward for winning Tullow and Heritage cases over Capital Gains Tax.
Winfred Ngabiirwe, the Executive Director, Global Rights Alert, says the ‘oil cash bonanza’ speaks volumes of how oil money is and will be spent.
“This bonanza confirms our fears that oil revenues will not deliver the country from poverty,” she explains.
“The level of secrecy and the impunity of the key players in the sector only confirm that Uganda is creating her own model of oil curse. It appears, those in power have decided to eat what they can eat, uncertain when production will start and oil dollars start flowing,” she argues.
According to Ngabiirwe, all these are attributed to government’s delay or refusal to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global frame that promotes transparency and accountability in the extractives sector.
The EITI framework, she argues, would enable Ugandans to know how much the country is earning from oil and gas resources and how the money is spent.
“We need a forensic audit of the entire sector. First, we need to know whether the country is collecting the right amounts of money from oil companies, and are oil companies paying right taxes to our coffers and then Ugandans must follow the money. Short of that, we are dreaming that will benefit our country,” she demands.
Gerald Karuhanga, the Ntungamo Municipality Member of Parliament, concurs with Ngabiirwe echoing that the cash bonanza is a confirmation of how oil money will be put to waste.
He argues that the fact that government can extravagantly spent colossal sums of money on “a golden presidential handshake’, for simply winning a case, what will happen when the ‘real’ petro dollars begin to flow.
Defending the oil cash bonanza, Sarah Birungi Banage, Uganda Revenue Authority’s Assistant Commissioner for Public and Corporate Affairs, notes that the ‘presidential golden handshake’, was in appreciation of the exemplary performance by the team and a standard international best practice.
“….. government granted the team involved an honorarium or bonus or golden handshake totaling Shs 6bn. This represented less than 1% of the amount brought in or defended,” reads in part a statement from URA.
“The team brought in a combined total of $700m into government coffers after a series of court battles in Uganda’s Tax Appeals Tribunal, High Court, Court of Appeal and High Court of London, Court of Appeal of UK, and two international tribunals. This was from the Heritage transaction and the subsequent Tullow transaction. The two cases were an unprecedented win for the country, and the first of its kind in Africa in the sector of Oil and Gas Taxation,” the statement further notes.
The officials who benefited from the ‘presidential golden handshake include; former Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Energy Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, URA’s Commissioner General Doris Akol, former URA’s head of legal affairs and ED KCCA Jennifer Musisi, Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, former Attorney General Peter Nyombi and his deputy, Fred Ruhindi, Lawrence Kiiza from Ministry of Finance, Ernest Rubondo, the executive director of PAU, Francis Atoke, the Solicitor General. Others include lawyers; Ali Ssekatawa (URA), Martin Mwambutsya (then State Attorney), Peter Muliisa among others.
In November, 2015, President Yoweri Museveni wrote to the Minister of Finance, Hon. Matia Kasaija authorizing cash payments to the 42 government officials.
“I met with a team of officials that handled the case and they requested to be considered for a reward in appreciation for the work done. Given the amount of money that was recovered for the government, I agreed that government pays them some money as a token of appreciation. I therefore direct that a team of 42 government officials be paid Shs 6bn only,” Museveni wrote in his authorization letter.
The oil cash bonanza comes after, the ‘first oil money’ was allegedly illegally released from Bank of Uganda, purportedly on the orders of the President to buy fighter jets in 2013.
Report by Edward Ssekika
Over sixty Ugandan and international NGOs issued a joint press statement in Kampala this week calling on the Uganda government to stop its plans of licensing out the Ngaji oil block at the DRC border in order to preserve the pristine environment of the Virunga National Park. Read More
Today, a group of nine civil society organisations working in Uganda released a joint statement expressing concern over the decision by the Government of Uganda to continue with the planned bidding round for six oil blocks despite the absence of critical regulatory institutions and mechanisms required by law. Read More
Leaders from the oil-rich Bunyoro Kingdom want Parliament to review the recently-passed oil laws and include clauses that will empower the Kingdom and people in the region to realise economic benefits from the exploitation of oil and gas resources. Read More
Two very important events opened simultaneously yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa: One is Africa’s biggest and most attended meeting on mining, the Invest in Africa Mining Indaba, which is taking place at the International Convention Center. Read More
Seventy-year old Beatrice Ngonzebwa balances her frail body with difficulty as she walks through the wreckage of what has been her home for the last fifty years, finally clutching onto a door frame, the only structure left standing of her mud and wattle house. Read More