20 May 2019

Uganda: Parliament Asked to Settle Uganda-S. Sudan Traders' Claims

Photo: Daily Monitor
MPs debate during plenary.

Kampala — A Select Committee of Parliament has recommended that government allocates Shs948.6b towards compensating Ugandan traders, who registered losses as a result of the war in South Sudan.

The MPs suggested that Shs778.4b ($207.2m) be availed as a matter of urgency in the Financial Year 2019/20 budget to settle claims by Ugandan companies, whose payment had been approved by the Ministry of Finance and Planning of South Sudan.

The request is contained in the report of the select committee that was established to investigate cases of delayed compensation of the traders.

The committee chaired by Kyankwanzi Woman MP Ann Maria Nankabirwa also wants government to quickly make available Shs170.2b ($45.3m) for companies that are pending verification.

The committee also notes that by signing the bilateral agreement with the Government of South Sudan in 2016, the Government of Uganda undertook to pay on behalf of their counterpart in form of a loan.

"The current suffering of Ugandan traders is a result of failure by government to meet its obligations under the agreement," reads part of the report.

Budget allocation

In the event that the budget cannot accommodate this at ago, the legislators suggested that government should explore possibilities of obtaining the said funds from the domestic financial market and expedite the process, settling the claims and also remedy the fast accumulation of interests and on loans that some of the traders owe local financial institutions.

In the report, the select committee also recommended the Ministry of Finance in Uganda to "urgently disburse the loan balance of $30,750,996 under the sovereign guarantee to the intended beneficiaries in order to build confidence and assure the Government of South Sudan that it is committed to the terms of the bilateral agreement.

Investigations

During their investigations, the committee observed that only 10 companies were catered for in the agreement, yet many others including private individuals had been affected.

They advised that government undertakes to find measures of compensating them, and also give them startup capital.

They have further urged the government to consider writing off tax arrears owed by the traders in distress to Uganda Revenue Authority as a form of direct support to enable them to restart their enterprises and also avert possible action against them by URA for failure to meet statutory obligations.

The law makers observed that there was no foul play in the selection of the initial 10 companies that have so far benefitted from compensatory measures, but blamed the government for the delayed process.

The committee report was last week presented to Parliament, with debate and adoption expected tomorrow before the adoption of the budget.

The Committee

Established in March this year, the committee was tasked to lift the veil and verify actual beneficiaries of the Shs40b ($10.9m) that was paid out following the bilateral; examine criteria of selection for beneficiaries and also to establish whether payments were effected in accordance with the April 3, 2018 resolutions of Parliament.

The six member committee is also composed of Masaka Municipality's Mathias Mpuuga, Herbert Ariko, Jennifer Mbabazi and Stella Kiiza as well as Henry Maurice Kibalya.

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