It is not clear whether government has already made the payments although MPs yesterday said Mr Museveni announced that deposits amounting to above Shs1 trillion had already been made. The MPs also revealed that the President made mention of the money being drawn from the Ministry of Defence budget. The BoU communication director, Mr Eriot Mweya, said he is yet to cross-check the details of the transaction and whether the central bank knew about the deal.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee, the Permanent Secretary, Ms Rosette Byengoma, said she “had been ordered” not to reveal or discuss anything to do with the transaction. She was appearing before the committee with some of her staff and army officers to answer audit queries. “I am under instructions not to talk about that particular procurement,” Ms Byengoma said, when asked by committee chair Nandala Mafabi, to shed light.
Making no headway, Mr Mafabi, said: “Okay we leave it at that.” The government has taken $740 million (about Shs1.7 trillion) from Bank of Uganda (BoU) to buy fighter jets and other military hardware from an unknown country.
Meanwhile, MPs yesterday began investigations into a payment of Shs253m by the Ministry of Defence to a Cyprus firm, M/s Oracle Systems Ltd, without a contract. The deal, part of a wider Shs12b project to computerise the payroll system in order to erase ghost soldiers, was questioned by the Auditor General.
The AG wondered why the money was paid to the firm that reportedly supplied spare parts yet no contract was signed between the parties. “Before commissioning the project, the Ministry of Defence paid an additional amount of Shs253m to the company to cater for spare parts needed for commissioning of the system,” the report reads in part. It adds: “The payment was irregular because there was no contract and it is not certain whether the firm will eventually win the contract.”
Ms Byengoma, however, told the MPs to pardon her for the payment although the contract was still before the Solicitor General. The MPs, who wondered how she would recover the money in case the SG did not endorse the deal, gave her up to Friday 1 to explain her payments and attach all the documentation so that the AG does a specific audit into the transaction.
“Since they were the installers of the project, we didn’t want to bring in a third party into our systems because we have classified information,” Ms Byengoma said. “We paid them for spare parts because we knew at some point the system would break down and I didn’t have to wait until it shuts down.” Ms Byengoma yesterday told the MPs that the system, though dogged with such queries, had been successful because there are no more ghost soldiers on the payroll.