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Court finds nothing wrong with Shs 6bn handshake

The High court has trashed the 2017 findings and recommendations of the parliamentary committee on the Shs 6 billion presidential handshake.

The parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) in 2017 then led by Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu, recommended that people who benefited from the Shs 6 billion 'presidential oil handshake' refund the money and be investigated by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) with the view of finding culpability and possible offenses.However, justice Andrew Bashaija ruled on Friday ruled that the recommendations of the committee were illegal and said the orders of the committee "be removed from public orders and should not be implemented."Bashaija said he didn't find anything wrong with the officials who received the money. The case was taken to court in 2017 by Ali Ssekatawa, who received over Shs 200 million from 'the handshake.'

Ssekatawa petitioned against parliament’s role in questioning the presidential donation to the team that worked on the oil case which they argue earned Uganda millions of dollars.Ssekatawa, who is now the legal officer at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda, was an employee of Uganda Revenue Authority at the time.

This ruling is a win for people who received the money but also raises more questions among Ugandans on whether public officials paid using taxpayers' money should be receiving more money as ‘handshake’ for doing their work.

The money was given to government officials following a court victory against the oil company, Heritage in London in 2015. Here, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) dismissed a case filed by Heritage, which had challenged a decision by URA to collect Shs 1.1 trillion capital gains tax. This was after Heritage sold its stake to Tullow Oil.

The court directed Heritage to pay Shs 11.5 billion in costs to Uganda. Armed with this victory, the officials asked President Museveni to pay them some of the awarded money as a token, which came to be famously known as the “oil handshake”.

Other people who received the money include former URA commissioner general Allen Kagina, who is now the head of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA).

The current URA boss Doris Akol, former Kampala Capital City Authority executive director Jennifer Musisi also received the money. Others include former attorney general late Peter Nyombi and former deputy attorney general Fred Ruhindi.

The ruling, which renders useless the 95-page report by Cosase, prohibits the implementation of the findings and awards costs to the applicant, Ssekatawa.

Among other things, the committee had recommended that the beneficiaries refund the money, that they be held accountable for flouting laws to solicit a donation from the president and that a bill be introduced to review presidential donations.

Justice Basahija adds that none of the recommendations should be implemented.

This article was originally published on Ugandan Observer.


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