Finance, Justice Ministries Fight Over Shs 164Bn

Ministries of finance and Justice and constitutional affairs have disagreed on the amount of money in arrears for court awards of cases ruled against government.

Acting Budget Director in the ministry of finance, Kenneth Mugambe
Acting Budget Director in the ministry of finance, Kenneth Mugambe

While the ministry of justice has told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee the outstanding court awards arrears amount to 164 billion shillings, Finance maintained that the verified figure is 81 billion.

The two ministries were on Thursday appearing before the committee together with Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to chat a way forward on the critical issues affecting the Justice Law and Order Sector-JLOS.

The Acting Budget Director in the ministry of finance, Kenneth Mugambe, told the committee that the ministry is working on a plan to extinguish the 81 billion shillings arrears in three years something that confused the MPs since they were lobbying for 164 billion.

The MPs asked how the difference comes about yet the justice ministry which is mandated to settle court awards says the figure is 164 billion.

Mugambe said that according to the information from the ministry of justice, only 81 billion is remaining after Finance disbursed 87 billion shillings last year to settle part of the arrears.

The director Civil Litigation, Chebrion Barishaki, on Tuesday told the MPs that the ministry of Finance gave them only 50 billion shillings last year to pay the awards whose litigants secured court orders compelling government to pay. Mugambe, however, told the committee that at the end of every financial year, after accounts have been audited, every ministry makes a submission of the outstanding bills which are verified by the ministry’s internal audit department which constitutes the public debt.

But Solicitor General Francis Atoke said that 164 is the figure recorded in their records as at the end of the 2013/2014 financial year.

Mugambe suggested that the ministry should go back and reconcile the 164 billion against the 87 billion that was paid last year.

Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu asked whether the finance ministry disburses money to clear the awards without telling the ministry of Justice which is the concerned ministry.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi told the committee that the figure shouldn’t be an issue adding that it is just a matter of harmonising the figures.

Katuntu said that the committee unanimously agreed that each individual ministry should take responsibility for the court awards that have accrued in their ministries. He said that each ministry should include their court awards in the budget and submit and defend it before the ministry of finance so as to create a sense of responsibility and discipline.

Katuntu said that the committee needs guarantee that the issue will be settled in three years adding that this money attracts interest and the longer they take to clear it the more it accumulates.

Mbabazi pledged that cabinet will look into the matter and report back to parliament adding that government has prioritised cross-cutting issues like infrastructure and electricity. He however said government is committed to covering these funding gaps next financial year saying that they cannot evade that responsibility forever.

He said that government acknowledges the fact that the money is accumulating and that there are beneficiaries who are entitled to this payment.

Committee chairperson Stephen Tashobya gave the ministries of finance and justice and constitutional affairs one month to harmonise the figures required and to work out a short term payment plan and report back to the committee.

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