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Ezra Suruma Fears Corruption Will Deplete Oil Revenue

Dr Ezra Suruma, who now works as a Presidential Advisor on Finance and Economic Planning, said his experience shows that the country currently has no institutions with the capacity to properly manage public funds. He cited the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the recent Identity Cards project and Global Fund scandals where billions of shillings was misappropriated, as examples to show that the oil revenue could also be wasted.

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Former Finance minister Ezra Suruma has expressed fears that the oil revenue could easily be depleted through corruption unless proper measures are established to manage the funds.

 

Dr Suruma, who now works as a Presidential Advisor on Finance and Economic Planning, said his experience shows that the country currently has no institutions with the capacity to properly manage public funds. He cited the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the recent Identity Cards project and Global Fund scandals where billions of shillings were misappropriated, as examples to show that the oil revenue could also be wasted.

 

Suruma served as Finance Minister from 2005 to 2009 when he was dropped during the Temangalo scandal involving National Social Security Fund (NSSF), then security minister Amama Mbabazi and city businessman Amos Nzeyi.

 

A former deputy governor at Bank of Uganda from 1990 to 1993, Suruma noted that there is also the worry that a few individuals could manipulate the weak institutions to steal the oil revenue at the expense of the general public. He emphasized that the threat of corruption was real and that it is not good to pretend that it does not exist.

 

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Suruma suggested that besides strengthening the oversight institutions, government needs to invest the oil revenue in projects such as universal health care system, agriculture, housing, pension fund scheme and scholarship for technical skills at tertiary level.

 

Suruma’s fears about a likely mismanagement of oil revenue echoes similar concerns that the civil society have been making about the Public Finance Bill currently before parliament. Many say the bill does not provide adequate safeguards against misappropriation of the funds.

 

Petter Nore, a Norwegian expert on the oil sector, says that there is need for a competent system to control the saving and spending of oil revenue to avoid private enrichment from oil. He also called for strengthening of appropriate institutions with clear roles and mandate to ensure proper management of the oil sector.

 

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  Henry Bazira, the chairman of the Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas, a network of civil society organizations engaged in the oil sector, says that the proposed bill to manage oil revenue should have been left on its own and not incorporated with the Public Finance Bill. He says this led to the loss of details on the provisions to manage oil revenue.

 

He adds that the bill lacks details on how to manage Decommissioning Fund and Petroleum Holding Account. According to the bill, there should be a Petroleum Fund, comprising Petroleum Revenue Holding Account and Petroleum Revenue Investment Reserve with the minister of finance as the overall manager of the Petroleum Fund.

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