Uganda: Finance Officials On the Spot Over South Sudan Traders' Pay

State minister for Planning David Bahati yesterday came under fire from Parliament over failure to compensate traders who lost property during the 2013-2015 insurgency in South Sudan.

Despite a decision by Parliament to provide for the Shs76b compensation money in the budget for 2019/2020 financial year, traders remain languishing in debt and interests on loans.

Mr Bahati told Parliament yesterday that the matter is before court, and given the timing of the financial year which ends June 30, there is no hope that the payment will be effected.

"I don't think it will be possible now to clear those resources in the last days remaining. So we are now in court and that is one of the challenges that is there for us to make the payment," he said.

Provoked by this response, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga shot back.

"You are in court over what? What is the issue in court? This matter has been on the order paper since April. So this is a strategy to avoid paying, is that why you have sent people in court? Minister please, be serious," she added.

Mr Bahati's attempt to convince Parliament that the matter can better be answered by Finance minister Matia Kasaija and the Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi did not yield fruit.

Instead, the Speaker called on Parliament to press the ministry to produce answers regarding the delayed payment.

"I think we need the minister to understand that this issue is serious; consequently, we shall not process any more works from the ministry of Finance until the minister has come and explained why he has not paid the South Sudan traders," Ms Kadaga said.

In this month alone, the ministry of Finance has presented to Parliament, loan requests amounting to Shs2.32 trillion.

Bugabula South MP Maurice Kibalya told Parliament that the delayed compensation is caused by a power conflict at the ministry on who should and should not be paid. Mr Kibalya said the power play is rooted from a conflict of interest where high ranking officials at the ministry are among the beneficiaries.

"Madam Speaker, we need to save this nation, I think it is high time we stopped playing games here," he said.

Mr Kibalya added: "We have information that between the ministers, there is a battle. They have refused to pay because some of them are beneficiaries and they don't want others to benefit."

He asked the Speaker to compel Mr Kasaija to personally appear before Parliament and explain why he has refused to sign payment documents.

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