New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Nsibambi Regrets OPM Scandal

Photo: New Vision
Uganda's ninth parliament: Finance Minister on donor cut and the budget.

Former Prime Minister, Prof. Apolo Nsibambi has spoken out for the first time about the scam rocking the Office of the Prime Minister.

"This scandal is very unfortunate, and I regret that it escaped my radar," Nsibambi said of the scam that has already seen the interdiction of a host of senior officers in OPM, including Principal Accountant Geoffrey Kazinda.

Nsibambi however said the allegations linking him to the scam in the OPM, was simply an attempt by some people to tarnish his name.

Nsibambi said he is ready to face the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament to clear his name since; according to him, he has no skeletons in his closet.

On Tuesday, the Accountant General Gustavo Bwoch told the PAC that Prof. Nsibambi and Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana caused the removal of the a hawk-eyed internal auditor Samuel Wejula who first unearthed the dirt in the OPM. About sh38b was stolen in the scam in which officials from the OPM, finance ministry and Bank of Uganda are implicated.

Bwoch presented an internal audit report compiled by Wejula for July to March 2009, highlighting suspicious financial transactions in OPM. The report reportedly caused trouble to Wejula.

But Nsibambi yesterday described Bwoch's allegation as "mendacious and regrettable."

"I wish to make it clear that I never directed Mr Bwoch to transfer the Internal Auditor from the OPM. It is the Accountant General who deploys internal auditors and principal accountants to all ministries. Political leaders who do not have the professional knowledge to know how internal auditors perform do not have the credentials to direct the Accountant General to remove internal auditors from their offices," said Nsibambi in a statement yesterday.

"If the political leaders direct the Accountant General to remove the internal auditors from their offices, the Accountant General must resist it. It is unprofessional for the Accountant General to succumb to the pressures of political leaders," he added in an apparent indictment of Bwoch's managerial competence.

The former Prime Minister took strong exception to Bwoch's statement before PAC that he personally walked to his (Bwoch's) office demanding Shaban Wejula's transfer, saying it was an affront on his integrity.

"The allegation that I walked to the Ministry of Finance in order to persuade him to remove the Internal Auditor from my office is ridiculous and malicious. No respectable Prime Minister can ever do such a ridiculous thing! I could have summoned him if I wanted," Nsibambi said.

Nsibambi said Bwoch should substantiate his allegations with documentary evidence. He said politicians offer policy directives in ministries, and by their very nature lack the capacity upon which to judge the professional competence of Internal Auditors.

"If the political leaders direct the Accountant General to remove the Internal Auditor from their offices, the Accountant General must resist it. It is unprofessional for the Accountant General to succumb to the pressures of political leaders," Nsibambi said,

Asked about the scam in a separate interview, Nsibambi regretted not having detected the brewing financial scandal during his tenure as prime minister. He hastened to add that as a political leader, he had no capacity to suspect anything since he was not handling finances.

CAR LOG BOOK DISCOVERED AT KAZINDA'S HOME:

Asked about a car log book in his name that Police detectives stumbled upon during a search at Kazinda's home, Nsibambi explained the circumstances under which this happened.

The discovery of the said car log book at Kazinda's home had raised eyebrows.

Nsibambi said he had an old car that he wanted to sell. Consequently, he enlisted the help of the PS Pius Bigirimana to sell his car.

He said that it was long after signing the transfer papers, that he discovered that Bigirimana actually had sold the car to a company belonging to Kazinda.

Nsibambi retired as Uganda's Prime Minister last year after 12 years (1999.2011), but preliminary investigations into the OPM scam indicate that most of the heist was perpetrated during his time.

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