Delayed South Sudan traders compensation irks MPs

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Matia Kasaija

Parliament has criticised government over delayed compensation of Ugandan traders who supplied goods to the Government of South Sudan in 2008, even after Parliament appropriated funds for the same in 2019.

Legislators are dismayed that despite the rigorous verification exercise conducted by the governments of South Sudan and Uganda for the past 10 years, government has failed to give a satisfactory explanation on the delay.

“What does it take for government to pay traders?  What is so difficult when we appropriated money for compensation?” asked Hon. Elijah Okupa (FDC, Kasilo County).

MPs cast doubt at government for singling out 10 companies that have been partially paid, leaving a number of verified traders with no penny for such a long period.

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“I think our patience is running out because the response from the finance ministry has continually been negative, they are still paying the first category of 10 companies which we suspect belong to the untouchables of this country,” said Cecilia Ogwal, (FDC, Dokolo).

Ogwal decried the deplorable situation that traders have been subjected to with banks selling their properties leaving them homeless.

“We agreed to appropriate Shs 76 billion to assist the extra traders but none has been paid, there is one particular man who is sleeping in the bus park, he has scattered his family because he cannot care for them, banks have sold his properties, he has lost his normal senses,” added Ogwal.

Ogwal was responding to a statement by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Hon. Matia Kasaija, on the pending compensation of Ugandan traders formerly trading in South Sudan, during plenary sitting on Tuesday, 6 October 2020.

Kasaija explained that the Government of Uganda is lending a loan to the Government of South Sudan by compensating only traders within the bi-lateral agreement signed between the two governments in 2011.

“We agreed to lend government of South Sudan a loan such that when they stabilise they reimburse our money. So, we have paid only the 10 companies which are within the agreement,” said Kasaija adding that, “to include additional traders we would have to go back to South Sudan to include an addendum to the bi-lateral agreement because it is a loan we are giving them.”

Kasaija noted that the 10 companies by 2008 were claiming a total of US$56 million and have been paid only US$25 million. “The outstanding balance will be cleared within a period of five years according to government’s cash flow,” he told MPs.

He said that government has considered Parliament’s resolution of 2018 to compensate extra traders by verifying over 100 traders. However, he observed that many do not satisfy the requirements for compensation citing several irregularities.

“In some instances, some sub-contracts were signed before the agreement with South Sudan was signed, some traders supplied goods less the quantity within the contracts but they are claiming payment according the entire contract value, and there are traders who were directly contracted by officials within government of South Sudan,” said Kasaija.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who presided over the sitting, directed Kasaija to supply Parliament with the lists of traders who have been paid and that of unsettled claims.

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