The Uganda Revenue Authority has justified the six billion shilling cash reward to 42 government officials, including the authority’s head, for the settlement of a tax dispute in a London court.
In the payout now dubbed a “golden presidential handshake” which has attracted public outrage, some of the 42 public officials walked away with as much Shs200 million each.
An Assistant Commissioner at the Uganda Revenue Authority Sarah Banage who is the spokesperson of the authority justified the payout of six billion shillings to government officials.
The payout executed by the tax body was from a supplementary budget of six billion shillings, approved by President Yoweri Museveni and the Auditor General.
The 42 government officials from URA, the energy and finance ministries as well as the Attorney General’s chambers had successfully helped government win a tax case in London against Heritage Oil.
URA says the payment followed lawful procedures on honoraria and bonuses paid to civil servants for exceptional work.
The payout has drawn the ire of anti-corruption activists since the Anti-corruption Act forbids public officials from soliciting or accepting monetary rewards in the performance of their work.
However, a press statement released on Thursday by URA said there was nothing wrong with the payment as it was endorsed by Attorney General and approved by President Yoweri Museveni— and all payments underwent the necessary approval processes as provided for under the Public Finance Management Act.
The statement added: “It is standard international best practice for employees to receive bonus payments/ or honoraria for exemplary performance in both the public and the private sector.”
“Equally under the Ugandan Constitution; the President has a prerogative as a fountain of honour to reward exemplary performance and this has been exhibited in the fields of health, academia, and sports to mention a few.
The statement signed by URA’s publicist Sarah Banage said the payment was meant to appreciate the “professionalism” and “patriotism” exhibited by the team members, especially their ability to resist all pressure and compromise given the magnitude of the figures involved.
The statement said the payment was only one percent of the huge sum the officials won for the government of Uganda.
Banage said, however, that the matter has been blown out of proportion to imply the official shared the money out of greed.