“I think Parliament didn't do its work. Why do you appropriate money that you will not monitor and then sit here to probe?"
Publish What You Pay’s Robert Tumwesigye puts his point across before members of COSASE) at Parliament. Looking on is ACFODE’s Brenda Asiimwe). Photo by Miriam Namutebi
There was drama in Parliament today when members of the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas clashed with MPs probing the oil bonus and blamed them of approving the expenditure and later wasting time probing the circumstances.
Trouble started when one of the members, Magara Siraje, criticized the MPs on Commissions State Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) committee of approving the money before investigating the matter.
“I think Parliament didn't do its work. Why do you appropriate money that you will not monitor and then sit here to probe? This was a weakness on your side" Magara said.
His comment however angered the members who bombarded them with questions and accused them of being ignorant about the budget cycle and issues of oil.
In a rebuttal to brush off the accusations, the acting committee chairperson Fred Turyamuhweza said, "While you are here to enrich our understanding, it seems you only understand the expenditure and not the appropriation process. Don't just pick things and come to complain. I beg the civil society to give people correct information and not peddle lies”.
“If you have been following the probe, where did you get information that we appropriated the money? Where did you get the information that the money was removed from the Oil Revenue Fund?” Turyamuhweza asked.
According to documentary evidence submitted by Bank of Uganda, Uganda Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Finance, the money was requested through a supplementary budget which Parliament is yet to approve.
MP Abraham Byandala cautioned the CSOs against “talking about things they are not well versed with”.
“Whatever decisions government makes follows the development plan. Don’t say government is not doing its work and doesn’t care about its citizens. Secondly, why do you focus on oil expenditure yet there are other things like tourism?” he asked.
CSCO chairperson Irene Ssekyana however proposed that for the purposes of transparency, authorities charged with the oil money should publish quarterly reports to avoid mismanagement.
"You should reign in the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Energy to publish quarterly reports on oil revenues. It is important to always disclose information regarding the sector and proactively educate the citizens about the policies, legislation and associated implications," Ssekyana said.
She pointed at a range of loopholes currently bogging the oil sector, saying that despite a number of petroleum revenue management policies, a review of the current fiscal legal regime guiding the collection and use of the revenues revealed that, "there is lack of petroleum revenue utilization plan and conflicting powers between the minister of finance and Bank of Uganda".
Last week, COSASE chaired by Abdu Katuntu directed an audit into the oil revenues that have been collected since 2011.
This followed failure by the Ministry of Finance to account for over Sh1.3 trillion that was deposited on the oil revenue account before the creation of the petroleum fund account with Bank of Uganda.
COSASE members then argued that prior to the creation of the petroleum fund account; the money was supposed to be ring-fenced and transferred to the fund as opening balance.
However some ministry officials said there was no money but on further questioning, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry revealed that the money was spent on construction of Isimba and Karuma dams.
The committee asked him to provide a breakdown of the expenditure.
According to Bank of Uganda, the petroleum fund account holds only Shs10b on the local currency account and $72m on the dollar account.