Finance Officials Admit Irregularities in Awarding ‘Handshake’ Money

By UBC Reporter

The Ministry of Finance has admitted that the process of releasing the Shs6billion reward to public servants following a successful oil arbitration case – otherwise, widely known as the ‘presidential handshake’ – was irregular.

The Finance Ministry officials including the Minister Matia Kasaija, Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi and Director Budget Kenneth Mugambe admitted the mistakes while appearing before the Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authority and State Enterprise (COSASE) on Friday.

They noted that it was a mistake for an accounting officer of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to process payment without the permission of the Minister.

Section 25 of the Public Finance Act states that, before an accounting officer processes payments, he or she should get the approval of a minister.

The committee has noted that although the URA commissioner general wanted a supplementary budget in the financial year 2015/16 for the reward of the public servants, the Permanent Secretary had advised the commissioner general that a supplementary budget was not feasible.

Minister Kasaija stated that he directed the permanent secretary to work on the expenditure under supplementary budget since he was busy engaged in campaigns. He says it is irregular for an accounting officer to spend money without permission from the minister, adding that they have learnt from their mistakes.

He said this should not have been the case as the law is clear on who should authorise the supplementary budget.

The Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi, on his part, said he acted as he was directed by his minister. He said he consulted the minister and the minister said he was willing to give a supplementary.

Five officials from the Ministry of Finance received part of the ‘handshake’ money.

One of them, the PS Muhakanizi received Shs67million.

Muhakanizi told the committee he was not aware of the fact that he would be rewarded, but only welcomed it since he was not doing well financially.