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City lawyer katabaazi ordered to repay shs39b obtained from NAADS

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Parliament’s Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) has ordered city lawyer Patrick Katabaazi Kiconco, to pay back Shs39 billion he received from the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) that was intended for tea farmers in western Uganda.   “Lawyer Katabaazi should be prosecuted for failure to fully remit money meant for tea nursery bed operators. Mr. Katabaazi should pay all the amounts due to the beneficiaries within six months from the date of adoption of this report,” read in part a report from Parliament’s Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE).   In addition, Parliament also advised government agencies to refrain from making payments through lawyers in order to prevent similar occurrences in the future.The COSASE report emphasises that all future pending payments should be made directly to the beneficiaries.   This development follows the arrest order issued by lawmakers in August of this year, based on the misappropriation of Shs39 billion intended for tea farmers as payment from NAADS.   The 2021/2022 Auditor General’s report had raised concerns about the lack of evidence indicating that the funds reached the intended beneficiaries.   Katabaazi had claimed to represent a group of over 711 tea nursery bed operators who were seeking compensation for their unpaid claims from NAADS.   However, some MPs contested his assertions, presenting bank statements that revealed discrepancies between the amounts reported by Katabaazi and the actual funds received by the farmers.   The committee was also informed of transactions where funds were transferred back to the law firm’s account, suggesting potential impropriety.   Katabaazi denied the existence of any complaints from farmers regarding the payments, but this statement drew criticism from MPs who accused him of insinuating that the lack of complaints implied satisfaction.   He clarified that the accountability report submitted to NAADS did not include the figures mentioned by the MPs, as it was a summary of the payments made at that time.   During the proceedings, NAADS officials confirmed that the schedules of accountability were generated by Katabaazi’s law firm.   However, the lawyer denied allegations of imposing a standing order on the beneficiaries’ bank accounts, reiterating that his primary relationship was with the eight individuals who approached him, rather than the aggrieved beneficiaries, despite initially claiming to represent the interests of 711 farmers.

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