Minister David Bahati

Parliament has directed the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija, to explain the delay in compensating the majority of Ugandan traders who supplied the Government of South Sudan during the civil unrest in the country between 2013 and 2015.

Legislators from across the political divide expressed their displeasure over the continued delay by the government in paying out the Shs76 billion that was approved by the House in Financial Year 2019/2020.

“We need the minister to understand that this issue is serious, so consequently we shall not process any more work from the Ministry of Finance until the Minister has come and explained why he has not paid these traders,” said Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.

The Speaker issued the directive to the Finance Minister during the plenary sitting on Thursday, June 25, 2020, after the State Minister for Finance in charge of Planning, Planning, David Bahati, was unsuccessful in presenting a plausible statement on the compensation.

Speaking to the matter, Bahati said Parliament had appropriated Shs76 billion to pay Ugandan companies verified by South Sudan, adding that however, the current hindrance was a petition in court by the traders.

“Last week we got communication from the Attorney General that the said companies have gone to court. I do not think it will be possible now to clear those resources in the last one day remaining. We are now in court, which is one of the challenges facing the payment,” Bahati said.

The Speaker said the item had been on the Order paper since April 2020, adding that the court case “could be a strategy to avoid paying”.

Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa, said the traders had rushed to court following disappointment that the government had failed to pay them even after Parliament had appropriated the funds.

“Government could end up losing more money if these businessmen win the court case, because this could mean double payment on the part of the government,” said Okupa.

Henry Kibalya alluded to internal misunderstandings within the finance ministry, for delaying the payment of the verified traders.

“Madam Speaker, we have information that within the Ministry of Finance, there is a battle between the ministers. They have refused to pay simply because they have information that some people are beneficiaries who do not want others to benefit,” Kibalya said.

He said the finance minister (Kasaija) ought to give the House reasons as to why the payments for Ugandan businesses-persons who operated in South Sudan and were verified, have stalled.

While meeting a Select Committee of MPs who visited Juba as part of their investigations into the payment of the Ugandan traders on Tuesday, 30 April 2019, the Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly of South Sudan, Rt Hon. Anthony Makana, said South Sudan was committed to paying Ugandan traders who supplied goods.

South Sudan’s Deputy Minister for Finance and Planning, Goc Makauc Mayol, told the same committee on 6 May 2019, that the Government of South Sudan had established a committee to verify the Ugandan traders claiming compensation for supplying goods to South Sudan before and after the 2013 civil war.

During a plenary sitting on May 29, 2019, chaired by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, Bahati said that only companies that dealt with the South Sudan government would be paid, and that private traders who did not directly supply the South Sudan government would not receive any compensation.