IGG has ordered the directors of UVETISO to account for sh6.9b of the sh10b benefits they received.
By Chris Kiwawulo
The Inspector General of Government (IGG) has ordered the directors of Uganda Veterans of Internal Security Organisation (UVETISO) to account for sh6.9b of the sh10b benefits they received, but was not received by the majority of intended beneficiaries.
Justice Irene Mulyagonja, in a fresh order, has said three former ISO staff; Jeff Kiwanuka, Jamal Kitandwe and Bernard Kamugisha, who represented over 500 ex-ISO staff, should submit accountability for the sh6.9b to the finance ministry by January 17, 2015.
“In the event that the signatories to the UVETISO account fail to account for the monies by that date, the Director of Public Prosecutions should initiate an investigation into the loss of the said amount (sh6.9b) with a view of prosecuting the signatories to the account for the theft and/or diversion of public funds or other appropriate offences,” the IGG recommended.
Over 1,000 ISO staff were retrenched in 1993 without being paid terminal benefits. Five hundred of them sued the Government, which subsequently agreed to pay sh39.18b to them.
Court had initially awarded the retired soldiers sh72.4b, but the Government, through the Attorney General, negotiated with them and they agreed to take sh39.18b, which the Government was to settle in its entirety.
The initial sh10b was released to UVETISO, but the IGG halted further payments after some would-be beneficiaries alleged mismanagement.
A big part of the money was reportedly taken by the lawyers, according to the IGG.
Mulyagonja also directed that no further payments should be made to Matovu and Matovu Company Advocates, who represented the ex-ISO staff in the case. She noted that the bigger number of the 1,078 beneficiaries of the judgment in High Court Civil Suit did not bind themselves to pay any fees to the advocates.
“It was also manifestly unfair and illegal for the self-appointed representatives of the beneficiaries to pay almost 70% of sh10b to advocates and other persons as expenses without consulting and getting the written consent of all beneficiaries. They, as a result, deprived the beneficiaries of a large portion of their benefits in the judgment,” the IGG said in an interim report released Monday.
Kiwanuka, Kitandwe and Henry Waibale (now deceased) were originally representing the group of over 500 retired soldiers in the court case that took over 10 years.
On winning the case, however, Kiwanuka and Kitandwe were joined by Kamugisha with whom they formed a company called UVETISO, on whose account in Crane Bank the first installment of sh10b was remitted.
The sh10b was remitted to the UVETISO account on June 18, but sh2.5b was withdrawn in cash on that very day and another sh2b was withdrawn the following day.
By August 15, there was only a balance of sh31.7m on the account.
This prompted some of the former ISO staff to petition the Attorney General, IGG, ISO and the office of the Minister for the Presidency seeking their intervention.
On August 22, the IGG wrote to the finance ministry, stopping further payments, setting up a stage for a clash with the Attorney General, who questioned legality of the IGG’s order halting of the payments.
Kiwanuka, Kitandwe and Kamugisha also petitioned court, which halted the IGG’s investigations.
Due to the court’s decision to halt her investigations, the IGG asked the Auditor General and ISO to carry out a physical verification of the former ISO employees entitled to terminal benefits, including establishing those who are deceased and the legal representatives entitled to receive the benefits on their behalf.
The IGG further asked that the finance ministry directly pays the terminal benefits to entitled and verified beneficiaries as well as legal representatives of the deceased beneficiaries identified after verification.
In her interim report, the IGG criticized the courts for the increasing tendency to issue orders halting investigations into alleged corruption.
Ex-ISO staff leaders ordered to account for sh6.9bn