Now that you have received the above report, it is my duty as one of the Commissioners appointed by you to inquire into the allegations of corruption in URA to explain to you why I was not willing to sign the report submitted to you.
Now that you have received the above report, it is my duty as one of the Commissioners appointed by you to inquire into the allegations of corruption in URA to explain to you why I was not willing to sign the report submitted to you. after all, public money was spent on me by way of allowances paid to me as a Commissioner. I therefore have a duty to explain to you as the appointing authority and even to the public why I refused to be a party to the report submitted to you.
The process of compiling the report was flouted
I was appointed in the Legal Notice NO 3 of 2002 dated 15th March 2002 as a Commissioner to serve on the Commission of Inquiry. I was appointed together with two other Commissioner, one of whom was to be the Chairperson. Other supporting staff, like the Secretary and the Lead Council were also appointed. The Commission started its work about the end of May 2002. The Commission had its first meeting on 4th June 2002 and its second meeting on 11th June 2002. Even though the minutes of those two meetings remain unconfirmed and unsigned, they do exist.
The two meetings centred on the preliminary arrangements, the budget and so on. The Commission then organised public hearings in the International Conference Centre, after receiving allegations of corruption and injustice in URA from the public as well as documents and files of all the staff of URA.
During public hearings, the Commission heard statements and got documents form the public and the officers of URA. The proceedings of the public hearings were reported on tape and do exist.
Apart from the first and the second meeting of the Commission of Inquiry and the public hearings, the Commission has never had another meeting. It should perhaps be pointed out that public hearings were organised by the Commission in order to take evidence, but they were not meetings of the Commission as such. The real meetings of the Commission are those where the Commissioners would evaluate evidence, blame or defend those accused and make recommendations.
No such meetings of the Commission have ever taken place since June, 2002. The truth therefore is this:-
(a) the Commission has never met since June 2002
(b) the Commission has no record of its proceedings apart from the minutes of the two meetings in June 2002 as well as taped proceedings during public hearings which ended in February, 2003.
I am not aware that a Commission of Inquiry into anything can start its work and end it without taking minutes.
Let me point out Mr. Minister that even a Commission of Inquiry has to account to the public as to how it has reached its conclusions. Some of the matters raised in a report of a Commission of Inquiry may end up in Court, and those accused may demand to know how the Commission evaluated evidence against them. Let us suppose one wanted to see the minutes of the meetings of the Commission in which the accused had their cases discussed and re commendations made on them and was told that the Commission of Inquiry took no minutes! I do not think that would appear neat!
I am not suggesting here that Commissioners have been sitting in their homes and waiting for meetings of the Commission of Inquiry. Nearly every working day of the week, the Commissioners gathered in the Commission offices at the Nile Hotel. We read newspapers, discussed current events and took gallons of tea, but at no time did we have a meeting. A meeting has a definition; it is called, it assembles, it is called to order it is given an agenda, and minutes are taken. No such a thing has ever happened.
Mr. Minister, you now have a report with recommendations, some of which I agree with and even helped to formulate when matters were still open to everybody. But who made the final recommendations in the report you have? It was not the Commission. The Legal Notice you signed when appointing the Commission says in paragraph 3 (4) and I quote:
"The Commission shall, at anytime, be deemed to be duly constituted if any two of the members are present including the Chairperson."
In other words, decisions of the Commission must be taken in a meeting, meaning that, minutes must be taken, date of that meeting stated and those who were present shown. The report submitted t you has therefore no valid finding or recommendation. It also contains incorrect statements, as I will show later.
Let me state here what actually happened in some detail. After the public hearings, we went to our offices and informally agreed on how we should share drafting of the nine chapters of the report as we envisaged it. Each was supposed to produce a raw draft of the report on chapters allocated to him/her, based on the evidence he/she heard during public hearings, documents available, and his/her notes taken at public hearings. Raw drafts on different chapters were drafted. It was agreed again informally that these very preliminary drafts would be submitted to the Secretary of the Commission so that he could produce a working draft that reads together as a document.
The Secretary produced a working draft, which would then be discussed by the Commission in detail and more findings added and incorrect statements omitted. The Secretary then submitted that draft to the Chairperson about one year ago.
Since then, no part of the report has been discussed on the floor of the Commission. Not one. For a year, some of us never knew what was going on. We had rumours that the report was being redrafted and the substance changed in many cases. We had no way of knowing since no one was telling us what was going on. The Secretary continued to tell us that he had submitted the draft report to the Chairperson. One day, I forget what month it was, a report came up in the Red Pepper of all newspapers, saying that the Commissioners were not working together and that was why the report was getting delayed. In response to that Red Pepper report, we were called to our offices to discuss the source of that report, but we could not get the source. It was already clear that the report was being redrafted from beginning to the end. Not only was the substance of the report changed, the changes were being made without consultations. When we made it clear that the report had to be a report of three people, the Chairperson then decided that whenever she finished drafting a chapter, the draft of the chapter would be made available to the other commissioners so that they could make their comments or suggested amendments on chits to be submitted to the Chairperson who would determine how to incorporate those comments in the report. This suggestion amounted to an insult to the other Commissioners. This is why:
(a) draft chapters were produced in one copy as if the Commission did not have paper. We were to read the drafts in turns.
(b) The Commissioners were not anybody's assistants. They had rights. It was an insult to ask them to give their views in chits. Their views should have been submitted on the floor of the Commission for discussion. In any case, our views on the drafts were not the same. How then was the Chairperson going to incorporate them in the report without a meeting?
Inspite of these insults, we agreed to submit our views on chits chapter by chapter. I am not normally an obedient person, but this time I took this insult lying down. We then waited for many more months to be told the fate of our comments. About the beginning of December 2003, we were called on telephone by the Secretary to go through the 'final draft' of the report one at a time. It was not clear to us why the report was not to be discussed in a meeting. Without a meeting, we would end up submitting chits yet again. The other Commissioner, Fawn Cousens, went first to read the 'final draft'. She did read the draft and found that our comments had nearly all been ignored. Our objections were nearly similar and we had made our objections known to each other since we had no opportunity of sitting together in a meeting.
When I was told that our comments were ignored, I told the Secretary of the Commission that I would not come to read anything unless a meeting of the Commission was called, at which meeting I would tell everybody my piece of mind. I told him that unless he called a meeting with an agenda, I would not come to the office. I also told him that he was wasting his time especially as he was attempting to solve a problem he did not create. In any case, he took no part in drafting the report except at the beginning of the work of the Commission has not been a happy one. One day, I was barred from coming to the office of the Commission. The authorities told me to come another day. Why I was not wanted that day, I will never know, but I never complained. Sometimes, the best way of solving a problem is simply not to do anything about it.
Some of the matters I objected to
I should state from the start that the objections I will outline related to the draft report I went through and on which I made comments as contained in chits submitted to those drafting the report. I will not refer to paragraphs because these may not be the same paragraphs in the final report, which I know totally ignored my views. After all, the Commission had no way of knowing which text had changed, when and why it had changed especially in the absence of meetings where the Secretary would inform the Commission what changes have been made and why. I will therefore refer to Chapters assuming of course that these have not changed also.
1. Chapter One
The Commissioner General
(a) It is stated in the report that the Commissioner General attempted to frustrate the work of the Commission by not cooperating with it. Such statements have no foundation at all. She appeared before the Commission whenever summoned except when she was out of the Country, but even then, there was someone doing her job in her absence. In any case, such accusation has never been presented to the Commission. It was one of the many statements in the report that came out of the blue, so to speak.
(b) It was stated that the Commissioner General taxed some members of the Commission illegally. The subject taxation of members of the Commission is not in the terms of reference of the Commission and should not appear in the report. In any case, it raises matters of conflict of interest. How can the Commission fairly judge those it has, in advance, accused of offending it?
The report in this Chapter contained a statement which accused Ms. Mwerinde of intimidating witnesses whom she thought were revealing her wealth to the Commission. This statement should be out of the report because the Commission ahs never seen the people Ms. Mwerinde was said to be intimidating. We were told that a woman was the witness referred to, but who talked to her, or for that matter why did she not appear before the Commission? Ms Mwerinde herself has never been given an opportunity to defend herself on this matter. This is not justice.
2. Chapter Two
While discussing matters relating to the Board of Directors of URA, the report implies that the Chairperson of URA, Dr. Adriko, who is an engineer, may not be a suitable person to occupy that office. I could not accept such a position. In the first place, Dr. Adriko is not just an engineer sitting in a bureaucracy designing roads and bridges. He is a major businessman in his own right. A businessman or woman understands tax matters better than some of us because he/she sees them on his/her desk nearly everyday. These are matters that the Commission should have discussed and resolved, but meetings were always avoided.
3. Chapter Four
Assuming that the Chapters and paragraphs remained the same in the document you got, in Chapter 4, there are statements to the effect that Mr. Stephen Akabway is incompetent as an administrator and should be removed and that in any case, he is too old. This statement shocked us mainly for two reasons:-
(a) The statement is not true.
(b) Mr. Akabway, as an administrator, has never been discussed by the Commission with regard to his abilities.
What then was the motive for coming up with such a statement? Attacks on the persons of most top officers in URA appear in many parts of the report. What is difficult to comprehend is what is motivating these baseless attacks. There must be a huge motive, which of course is not easy to tell.
4. Chapter Eight
Ms. Feddy Mwerinde
A.K. Cargo Ltd.
While discussing tax matters of A.K. Cargo Ltd, the report at the end recommends that Ms. Mwerinde be charged with abetting tax evasion, which is a criminal offence. But the facts do not suggest a criminal offence. Ms Mwerinde received information, as the Commissioner, Income Tax, that A.K. Cargo Ltd was not paying taxes. Ms. Mwerinde therefore ordered a tax audit on the company. Unfortunately, her staff messed up the audit and never came up with a finding probably because they had been compromised. For months, Ms. Mwerinde did not follow up the matter. One could say she was negligent or inefficient but for those who are familiar with the volume of work in the office of the Commissioner for Income Tax, failing to follow up one case for months is normal, especially when one is dealing with thousands of files. I am unable to agree that an officer who on her own volition orders a tax audit on a company should at the same time be accused of abetting tax evasion, especially when there is no shred of evidence to that effect. The report is full of statements about the work of Ms. Mwerinde, which statements I know are not even - handed.
Here, officers of URA are accused of mismanaging hundreds of millions of shillings, for this project. What is stated in the report does not reflect well on the Commission. The report should place blame on all the officers involved or simply remain silent.
This is a Spanish company that was contracted by the Uganda Government to renovate hospitals and other projects in Uganda. Under the agreement, value added tax was supposed to be paid by government. In other words the Company would, on a routine basis, include VAT in its invoices to government. However, UR sent its tax demands to Dragados, which is in order. In most cases, the government would delay in honouring invoices submitted by Dragados as usually happens with many other government contractors. Because the government was not paying Dragados, the Company became or was a VAT defaulter most of the time. In the meantime, URA would continue to demand VAT from Dragados. There was therefore a need to streamline VAT payment by government contractors because a contractor would be blamed for not paying VAT when the government is not honouring the contractor's invoices.
While discussing tax affairs of Dragados, the report accuses the Commissioner General of URA of crimes that have no basis at all. The report says Ms. Annebritt Aslund who was the company's tax consultant when she was working in PriceWaterHouse, a firm of Accountants, was assisting Dragados to evade tax and that she routinely assisted other such firms to evade tax. This accusation is frightening, especially as there is no evidence to back it. In my 'chit', which I gave in as explained earlier, I said the whole section on Dragados should be redrafted because the statements there are motivated by matters that would appear to be persona. I said in my 'chit' that an independent audit should be carried out in Dragados books to determine the truth.
There are many other matters in the report that I do not agree with. The report for instance recommends that some officers be dismissed when the Commission visited their offices and talked to them for no more than one hour. How do you judge the quality of an officer in one hour and especially when you do not have expert knowledge about his/her work and when, in addition, his/her work has never been discussed by the Commission?
Accumulation of Wealth by URA Officers
This was the main work of the Commission as it serves as the indicator of corruption in URA and central to the Commission's terms of reference. Officers of URA had declared their assets before the Commission was appointed. The Commission was assisted by the Department of CID to verify whether the declarations were truthful. The Commission also reviewed the declarations to IGG which the officers had submitted earlier.
While the re cord in the report on this subject is correct, the procedure for reaching conclusions and recommendations is flawed. The Commission should have agreed on the criteria for determining if an officer owns property that cannot be explained by his/her legitimate income. The Commission should have considered age, length of service and previous employment before determining whether an officer may have abused his/her office. In other words, the Commission should have discussed the complex question of how much property should be considered too much at various levels of seniority in URA.
During public hearings and taking evidence from the officers of URA, the Commission noted two aspects, namely:
(a) some officers clearly attempted to hide their assets, which would indicate a feeling of guilt. Such actions would necessarily attract sanctions.
(b) some officers declared their assets truthfully even though some appeared to own too much at their age and rank. On these, discussion within the Commission should have taken place, but without meetings, what we have now is a draft determined by one person.
When the Commission was appointed, the government put at its disposal financial resources needed to finance its work. After about five months of work, the Commission run out of funds for reasons beyond its control. The Commission then sought more funds from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. Without much delay, the Ministry advanced more funds to complete the work. The amount advanced was the exact amount the Commission had requested. Even this money was used up before the Commission was ready with its report. The reason why the Commission again overrun its budget was because someone decided to rewrite the report in its entirely not only in terms of form but also substance.
This was done without informing or consulting anybody, not even the Secretary of the Commission. The drafting went on while more evidence was being collected even when the work of the commission had officially come to an end. For a year, the Commissioners did not know what was going on. More surprising however, was the fact that during all this time, the Commission had run out o funds and yet work was continuing as if this did not matter. But no one was telling us anything. Since April, 2003, the Commissioners have not been paid. I have no idea whether other staff were being paid. Yet we were still supposed to be on duty. If this were not so, we would not have been called upon nearly one year later to go to the office and read through the 'final report'.
The whole world works on budgets. One is given a task and resources to accomplish it. Any management worth its name has to ensure that the task and the resources are in harmony. In our case, we overrun our budget and continued to work as if it did not matter. I do not understand. Even though I am a Commissioner, I have no idea whether the Commission is in debt or whether it has paid all its bill. All I know is that I have not been paid since April, 2003.
Before I end, let me state here that my gut feeling remains that some officers of the URA were never going to g et justice from this Commission. One day, the Commissioner General appeared before the Commission at a time when she had a bad voice and could not be heard properly when she spoke. But after she had left the office, one person in the Commission maintained that the Commissioner General's voice was alright but that she was faking it. That looked like the Inquisition to me! For the reasons I have stated above, I was unable to sign the report and will not sign it any time in future. You will notice from what I have said that the environment in the Commission as such that I could not have in any case signed the report even if I had the desire.
Cc Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury.
Report On Allegations