KAMPALA Jan 6 Hefty bonuses paid to Ugandan
officials who oversaw tax dispute settlements with international
oil firms are a sign hydrocarbon discoveries are increasing
corruption in the country, government opponents and transparency
Commercial production is due to start in 2020 and some
campaign groups are warning Uganda is already suffering the
resource "curse", in which a rush of petro-dollars suffocates
the rest of the economy, encourages graft and stirs unrest.
Uganda first discovered oil more than a decade ago but
production has been stalled by lengthy rows between government
and oil companies over tax payments and infrastructure.
Local media reported some 40 senior officials in the
impoverished country's tax agency, energy, finance and justice
ministries received bonuses, some exceeding $100,000.
"This is nothing but the beginning of the resource curse,"
said Dickens Kamugisha, chief executive officer at African
Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO).
The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), which paid the
officials, said the bonuses were legal.
A first tax row erupted in 2010 between President Yoweri
Museveni's government and Heritage Oil after the firm sold its
stake in two oil blocks to its then partner, Tullow Oil.
The government netted $434 million after arbitration.
In a second case, Tullow disputed a Uganda tax assessment of
$473 million against its asset sale to China's CNOOC
and France's Total in 2012. Tullow paid $250 million
in an out-of-court settlement in 2015, nearly half of what was
The URA said in a statement that the payouts were to
"appreciate the professionalism and ... ability to resist all
pressure and compromise given the magnitude of the figures
About 6 billion shillings ($1.66 million) were paid out in
total to officials who included the head of the URA, the
Treasury's top technocrat and a former attorney general.
Ugandans have expressed anger at the payments on social
media and on radio talk shows, asking why well paid civil
servants had to be rewarded for doing their job.
Independent legislator Wilfred Niwagaba told Reuters he
planned to introduce a parliamentary motion on Jan. 10 demanding
the bonuses be returned and the recipients prosecuted.
"This is contemptuous abuse of public funds. How do you talk
of bonus payments as if government is now a profit-making
company. We're staring a resource curse in the face," Niwagaba
The motion is unlikely to gain traction in an assembly
dominated by the ruling National Resistance Movement party.
($1 = 3,625.0000 Ugandan shillings)
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; editing by Richard Lough)