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URA Probe Cost Shs 1 Billion

The commission of inquiry into alleged corruption in the Uganda Revenue Authority has so far cost government over one billion shillings.

Justice Sebutinde headed the three-member commission, which was appointed March 2002.

She handed over her report, on February 17, to Finance Minister Gerald Ssendaula – 20 months after inception of work.

Although two of Sebutinde’s colleagues; Mr James Kahoza and Ms Fawn Cousens, have disowned the report, government says it will use its
recommendations to help investigate URA officials implicated in the report.

Sunday Monitor could not readily establish the exact break down of the cost of the Commission, but Ministry of Finance officials confirmed that the cost is a little over one billion shillings.

“We have not got the correct figures yet, but it’s about Shs 1.2 billion,” said a highly placed source in the ministry.

However, an analysis by Sunday Monitor shows that government has been forking out about Shs 55 million a month.

The commission was composed of a chairperson, two commissioners, a secretary, a lead counsel and a legal assistant. It also had two
investigators, three secretaries, three guards and an office attendant.

Commission chairperson Justice Julie Sebutinde has been receiving a monthly salary of Shs 9 million totalling to Shs 175 million.

Her fellow commissioners; Kahoza and Cousens have each been earning Shs 8 million per month – bringing their total earning to Shs 156 million each.

Secretary of the commission, Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire has been earning Shs 6 million per month, totalling to Shs 117 million.

Investigators; Mr Patrick Oburu and Mr John Ndungutse, have each been earning Shs 475,000 per month – bringing their total haul to Shs 18.5

All these salaries, including that of Justice Sebutinde who still serves on the bench of the High Court were taxed.

Government and donors jointly funded the Commission. Ministry of Justice officials said government contributed about Shs 800 million while donors made up the balance.

Minister of State for Finance (General Duties), Mr Mwesigwa Rukutuna revealed that the commission had received about 200,000 pounds for the period May 2002 to February 2003.

The commission’s tenure, however, was extended for nine and a half months from May 3, 2003 to February 15, 2004. During this time the
commission did not receive a single cent from government.

“I last received my pay cheque in April 2003,” Justice Sebutinde told Sunday Monitor in an interview Thursday.

“We submitted the budget to the ministry (Finance) but up to now, we have not received anything”.

Government owes the commission about Shs 377,400,000 for the nine and a half months extension period.

Commission secretary Geoffrey Kiryabwire confirmed the figure. He revealed that besides salaries, government is also yet to clear the commission’s bill at Nile Hotel Conference Centre for the extension period.

The Commission has been renting a suite at $100,000 a day (Shs 190,000).

The URA commission of inquiry is the second most costly Commission in the history of the NRM government.

The most expensive so far has been the Justice David Porter Commission of Inquiry into the alleged plunder of DR Congo resources by the UPDF, which cost up to three billion shillings in taxpayers’ money.

Commission chairperson Justice David Porter earned Shs 25 million per month, Commissioners Justice Berko Shs 10.2 million, J. Rwambuya Shs 17.9 million while the lead counsel, Allan Shonubi was paid Shs 20.4 million per month.

In comparison, the chairperson of the Constitutional Review Commission, Prof. Frederick Sempebwa has been earning Shs 3.5m a month while his fellow commissioners were each paid Shs 3m a month.

Mr Rukutuna defended the hefty remuneration of the URA commission of inquiry and said the terms had been set after negotiations with the people on the commission.