The Observer (Kampala)

27 December 2012

Uganda: Kazinda Path to OPM Dotted By Dubious Deals

To many, the name Geoffrey Kazinda is now associated with the Shs 50bn fraud in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), but in the civil service he has put his fingerprints over wide stretches of questionable schemes. According to documents, now in his court file, Kazinda was involved in another scam in the ministry of Water and Environment in 2006.

At the time, Accountant General Gustavio Bwoch recalled him to head office, but Kazinda got unwavering support from then minister Maria Mutagamba, who opposed the move. The court documents include a dossier by the ministry's acting Permanent Secretary, Sottie Bomukama, which shows that Kazinda allegedly drew Shs 13m from the cashier at different times without signing anywhere for it.

After in-depth probing, Bomukama discovered that the ministry's Development Accounts had over Shs 1.3bn while Recurrent Accounts had another Shs 300m, yet Kazinda had reported that the said accounts had no money on them.

"Authorization for other cases is also questionable. Most cases which never necessitated cash disbursement were just settled in cash for reasons best known to the principal accountant," the memo reads in part.

"In addition to the Shs 13m, refunds of cash for say LVEMP which somehow found their way into his hands never made it to the safe!" Bomukama's confidential memo to Mutagamba reads further.

LVEMP means the Lake Victoria Environmental Management project. Despite these curious anomalies, Mutagamba is reported to have opposed Kazinda's transfer to the ministry of Finance, arguing that it was only him, the principal accountant who had been able to help her understand the technical issues in the ministry.

Bomukama, however, stuck to his guns, prompting Mutagamba to accuse him of intrigue and insubordination. She later directed that Kazinda should stay on until she gets proper guidance from the minister of Finance and the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission.

"I am the political head of this ministry. I see nothing wrong in me requesting for Mr Kazinda to help me understand the operations of this highly project-run, highly technical ministry. I am therefore bringing this matter to your (Bomukama) superiors for proper guidance," Mutagamba wrote on December 20, 2006.

Mutagamba, who also reported Bomukama's resistance to the president, was further angered when she leant that Kazinda's signature rights had been withdrawn from the Water ministry accounts. The furious exchange of letters and telephone calls between the minister and Bomukama were ended by deputy secretary to the treasury Keith Muhakanizi, who wrote to Kazinda, threatening to reprimand the principal accountant if he failed to hand over to a new principal accountant within 14 days from December 22, 2006.

According to Bomukama's memo, Kazinda later acknowledged his financial management failings and asked for another chance, referring to himself as "a reformed" man. Bomukama said that at the time of Kazinda's transfer, tens of millions of shillings were unaccounted for, leading to the delay in the treasury releasing imprest for the ministry for July and August 2006.

It was Bomukama's contention that none of the department activities benefited from this money despite preparing work plans for it. Instead, Kazinda allegedly explained that "the money was spent on political leaders." It took a strongly worded letter from Bomukama to the minister for the sector to settle down after the Kazinda saga.

"I request that we stick to our statutory roles with regard to staff management to avoid creating confusion and undermining of mandated authorities which at times leads to insubordination," Bomukama wrote to Mutagamba.

Kazinda finally handed over office in January 2007, before heading to the OPM.

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