News and Views

Basajjabalaba should refund all money if found not deserving – Museveni

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President Museveni has said businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba should refund all the money paid to him if it is proven that he deserved no money in the controversial compensation claim.

Mr Museveni has already directed the Attorney General, Mr Peter Nyombi, to recover any monies paid to the businessman in excess of the over Shs54 billion that government says was due to Mr Basajjabalaba.

However, in a meeting with Daily Monitor Managing Editor Daniel Kalinaki to discuss the matter recently, President Museveni said all the money paid out – so far believed to be about Shs142 billion – should be recovered if it was paid in error.

The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament is investigating the compensation to the businessman after city markets and a public space given to him irregularly to develop were later withdrawn.

The initiative
President Museveni initiated the meeting with Daily Monitor to reiterate that, contrary to statements by ministers and State House aides, he did not specify how much Mr Basajjabalaba should be paid, despite directing for the compensation “in principle and under the laws of natural justice”.

Asked why the businessman was receiving compensation despite an audit report commissioned by the Auditor General showing that Mr Basajjabalaba, in reality, owed Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA)Shs994 million, Mr Museveni said he “never saw” the copy of the audit report sent to him by the Auditor General, and only heard about it from MPs when he met PAC.

“I was assuming [Basajjabalaba] was entitled to compensation which was my original understanding,” Mr Museveni told this newspaper “but what emerged from PAC is different. We shall be guided by that.”

He added: “I wasn’t bothering about the how much; that is the work of the government valuer. The issue [under contention] is the amount for compensation and that one I didn’t know about.”

The Central Bank Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, former Finance minister Syda Bbumba and former Attorney General Prof. Khiddu Makubuya told PAC that they had acted under the instructions of the President.

Two State House aides, Joy Kabatsi and Edward Muhoozi, also told MPs that they had written key letters on the matter with the knowledge of the President.

President Museveni admitted to this newspaper that he signed the controversial letters but said he did that in good faith and without specific knowledge about the amounts claimed.
“Initially I thought it was a forgery but then I remembered signing the letters,” Mr Museveni said in reference to a letter from him asking the Attorney General to use the same formula applied in calculating compensation to Col. John Mugenyi for Kisekka Market to compensate Mr Basajjabalaba.

The letter was then used as the basis to raise the amount from Shs68 billion recommended by an inter-ministerial committee to Shs142 billion.

“Ms Kabatsi drafted the letter and I didn’t see any danger if there was a formula suggested by the government valuer,” Mr Museveni said. “They had to make sure the circumstances were the same. But even if they had followed [the formula used for Kisekka Market] it wouldn’t have been that figure.”

President needed advice
Asked about the preferential treatment Mr Basajjabalaba, a high-ranking member of the ruling NRM party, had received over the last 10 years from the taxpayer’s purse, Mr Museveni said the ministers and technocrats ought to have raised objections if his directive for compensation was out of order.

“Who had the information [about the irregularity of the claim] and who should have raised it?” Mr Museveni asked “There are cases when I direct them and they refuse,” he added, citing a claim for compensation by a one Mzee Aramtori of Katikelike, Amudat District, who claimed compensation for 298 head of cattle. “What was so special about this case?
“If they knew this is wrong, they should tell me,” he added, revealing that he withdrew a directive to have a city residence sold to former Kampala mayor Nasser Ntege Ssebagala after objection from Jennifer Musisi, the executive director of the KCCA.

Mr Museveni, who has previously written to the Central Bank Governor to procure taxpayer assistance on behalf of Basajja, is keen to distance himself from the latest claim which the external audit firm KPMG found was irregular, inflated, and unjustified.

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