Businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba and President Museveni. PHOTO MONTAGE

President Museveni has, in a surprise U-turn, approved the Shs142.6 billion compensation claim to city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba, saying he got new information that the claim was fair and the amount justified.

In a February 3 letter to Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee chairman Kassiano Wadri, Mr Museveni said his new position was reached after he met former Attorney General Khiddu Makubuya and Mr Basajjabalaba, who separately told him something new in connection with the payment of the controversial claim.

“I am writing to inform you that since I last met the Committee (PAC) on December 21, I have also met Dr Khiddu Makubuya, Syda Bbumba once again and Basajjabalaba. I had not met Khiddu and Hassan Basajjabalaba before ever since the beginning of this controversy,” the President wrote.

“Basajjabalaba claimed that he had invested a lot of money in the markets before I terminated his contract which had been given to him by the City Council without taking into account the interest of the thousands of market users,” Mr Museveni said.
When he first met PAC, Mr Museveni complained that some officials had been telling lies, and attempted to frame him in the payment to Mr Basajjabalaba.

All witnesses who appeared before PAC, including ministers, said the President was aware of the payments; a claim he outrightly denied and said the ministers should take responsibility.

President’s word
However, the President now says his initial reaction in which he disowned the payment to Mr Basajjabalaba was based on intelligence information which had indicated to him that the figure of Shs142.6 billion was “preposterous” and “outrageous”. “However, both Basajjabalaba and Khiddu Makubuya separately, told me, after my meeting with the Committee, that this was a “fair” figure.

My question then was: “Did you give this information to the Committee (PAC)?” Their answer, separately, was that they had done so but that the Committee was not listening to them attentively.

In that case, the President said: “That, however, is a matter of facts—nobody can change facts, they are either true or false.” Even though the KPMG report was formally commissioned by the Office of the Auditor General, the President in his latest submission to PAC insists he was not aware of this report until when he met PAC in December.

For that matter, the President ordered that, “By copy of this letter I am also informing the Auditor General because he is the one that has got the capacity to determine what would have been genuine expenditure by Basajjabalaba and what was not.”

Asked whether he was going to re-audit the payment to Mr Basajja’s Haba Group, Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, told Daily Monitor yesterday that he was aware of Mr Museveni’s letter but would respond when he reads it.

On his recent instruction to Attorney General Peter Nyombi to recover the excess amounts to Basajjabalaba, the President said: “The Attorney General is working separately to see how we can recover any excess money from what Basajjabalaba should have got or if Basajjabalaba should have any compensation at all in light of KPMG report that I was not aware of…”

PAC divided
While the President’s letter has apparently divided PAC members, who are currently camped in a Hotel in Entebbe to draft their report to Parliament, the President concludes his submission by saying: “All these are questions of fact. There is no room for guess-work. This is all the information to the Committee.”

Sources told Daily Monitor yesterday that while some legislators led by Gerald Karuhanga wanted to ignore Mr Museveni’s letter on claims that it was “pre-emptive” and came rather too late, others have demanded that the committee considers President’s submission because he had promised to send more information to PAC after his investigation into the matter.

Other sources told Daily Monitor that despite disagreements on some of the recommendations, PAC members have agreed that the ministers Makubuya, Ms Bbumba and Central Bank Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile be held responsible for the payment of Shs142.6b.

They also noted that any recovery of the said funds will be unlikely since KCC legally awarded the market deals to Mr Basajjabalaba.

President’s last-minute effort to justify the payment of Shs142.6b to Mr Basajjabalaba and the growing disagreements in PAC over who should bear responsibility for the payment of the compensations and whether there was any collusion in the payment of this money underline the dynamics shaping what is going to be a stern showdown on the floor when the report finally comes up for debate later this week.

By YASIIN MUGERWA, Daily Monitor

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