By Mary Karugaba
and Catherine Bekunda
THE Attorney General, Khiddu Makubuya and the Solicitor General, Billy Kainamura, were yesterday questioned over the contracts of CHOGM hotels.
The two were accused by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of drafting and â€œwronglyâ€ advising the Government to enter into contracts with three private hotels, causing financial loss. The committee is investigating the Commonwealth Summit expenditures.
The MPs asked Makubuya to explain why he advised the Ministry of Finance to pay J&M Airport Road Hotel belonging to the late Joseph Behakanira without the approval of Parliament and why he did not include the additional costs of Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort that cost the Government sh14b.
The MPs noted that although the Auditor General raised a red flag on the release of funds, advising the ministry to seek parliamentary approval, Makubuya went ahead and approved the deal.
Makubuya said the approval was based on article 119 (4) (b) of the Constitution which spells out the role and responsibility of the Attorney General.
â€œI did my best under the circumstances. If you think that my advice was not good enough, you are free to say so.
â€œActually as an Attorney General, I limit my involvement to legal and constitutionality matters. Other things should be addressed by the user department or ministry,â€ he said.
Makubuya added: â€œI outlined the legal position as I understood it. I have not heard from my colleague (finance minister) that they had a problem. If they did, they would have come back.â€
â€œThere is a problem. Has J&M hotel given you the shares?â€ Nathan Mafabi asked to which Makubuya replied: â€œThat is an implementation matter, which should be explained by the Ministry of Finance.â€
Although Makubuya defended his actions citing several articles of the Constitution, the MPs challenged him using other articles in Acts and the same Constitution, rendering his defence futile.
Quoting section 25 (1) of the Public Enterprises Reform and Divestiture Act, Makubuya said a minister has powers to approve the acquisition of shares on behalf of the Government with the approval of the divestiture committee.
But Mafabi challenged him, saying, â€œthat article does not apply here. J&M does not fall in the divestiture category because it is a private hotel.â€
During preparations for CHOGM, the Government entered into an agreement with J&M hotel and invested sh3b for its rehabilitation, sh18.7b for Speke Resort Munyonyo and sh67b for the renovation of Serena Hotel. It was agreed that the investments in the hotels would be turned into shares.
However, two years after CHOGM, the Government has not finalised the process of acquiring the shares in J&M hotel.