SEVENTEEN members of the Constitutional Review Commission irregularly paid themselves over sh200m, MPs heard yesterday. The under-secretary in the justice and constitutional affairs ministry, Ernest Bafaki, told MPs on the public accounts committee that the ministry had so far recovered sh110m from the commissioners.
â€œThe commissioners were in charge of the account. The secretariat was in charge of their monthly emolument, allowances and their procurement requirements,â€ he said.
â€œWhen I took over office, I had no reason to doubt that their emolument and allowances had not been dully sanctioned. This arrangement had to be changed subsequently.â€ Bafaki told the committee that he learnt of the irregular payments when the Auditor General drew his attention to the anomaly.
Bafaki explained that when the work began, the chairman, Prof. Fredric Ssempebwa, and the secretary assumed the autonomy of managing the funds allocated to the commission.
The commission was set up in March 2001 under the Commissions of Inquiry Act to seek and consider the opinions of all Ugandans, both in Uganda and abroad, on the constitutional reforms.
Its mandate was to run for 18 months, but the commissioners threatened to resign due to irregular and inconsistent funding. Later, they also refused to pay taxes to Uganda Revenue Authority.
â€œThe expenditure was incurred due to the pressure exerted on the accounting officer and fear for the unknown consequences incase the commissioners resigned. The minister often pleaded with them not to resign,â€ Bafaki said.
He added that the ministry had asked each commissioner to refund over sh5m. He, however, did not divulge how much each received. None of the commissioners responded to the directive.
Bafaki, together with the acting solicitor general, Jane Kiggundu, were appearing before the committee chaired by Nandala Mafabi to answer queries raised in the Auditor General 2004/5 financial report.
Kiggundu was given one week to recover all the money.
Constitutional review officials asked to refund sh99m