New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: OPM Wants Govt Financial Systems Reviewed

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has called for an expeditious review of the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) through which Government pays out money.

According to the OPM, a review would fill the loopholes in the system through which public officials have siphoned billions of shillings.

The IFMS allows for a central control of Government expenditures since it is coordinated between the user ministries, central bank and the treasury.

However, citing the sh22b recently stolen from the OPM, officials believe the system has been abused so much that it can no longer control fraud.

"We believe that the fraud under investigation in the OPM is an expanded problem involving the misuse of the IFMS. This system has been abused for some time," said Moses Watasa, commissioner for information in the OPM.

"What is at the OPM is a symptom of the abuse. We feel the problem is broader. Internally we are implementing measures to curb fraud but also we need the issue of IFMS sorted out."

Watasa was on Wednesday briefing journalists at the Media Centre about the ongoing Police investigations into the recent fraud in the OPM.

He said the alleged fraud involved between sh20 billion and sh22 billion and not sh150 billion as it was 'blown up' in certain media sections. "The figure may go up or reduce when investigations are concluded but currently that's what is known," he stated.

The funds were meant for the Northern Ugandan Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP). He said it was prudent to sell the thieves' properties to recover the money after conclusive prosecution.

The money was from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Britain, some whom have suspended funding to Uganda over the matter.

Ten senior officials from the OPM and six others from the finance ministry have since been suspended over the alleged fraud.

A number of others from the Bank of Uganda are also to be interdicted, according to Premier Amama Mbabazi.

The suspended officials from the OPM include Commissioner Martin Owor, principal accountant Geoffrey Kazinda, Arthur Mumanyire, M. Byekwaso, Isaiah Oonyu, Beatrice Kezaabu, K. Lubega, Yahaya Kasolo and Charles Oyugi.

Those from ministry of finance are; aid liaison officer Mariam Kiggundu, Wilbert Okello, Tony Yawe and David Mugisha.

Watasa said the suspension of donor funds had affected several poverty eradication projects in the north.

He refuted rumours that permanent secretary (PS) Pius Bigirimaana had been transferred from the OPM.

He said that it was Bigirimana who blew the whistle on the fraud which necessitated investigations by both the Police and the Auditor General.

'Some individuals have been trying to influence the probe process by writing to parliament anonymous false documents against the PS. (But) he is still at ther OPM and no transfers have been made so far."

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