24 January 2013

Uganda: Minister Musa Ecweru Named in OPM Scandal

State minister for relief and disaster preparedness Musa Ecweru has been cited in the ongoing parliamentary probe into the alleged fraud involving sh50b in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

The OPM senior assistant secretary, Patricia Agaba Ruhinda, on Tuesday told MPs that sh10m was advanced to Ecweru's account to cater for his allowances, those of his driver, personal assistant and bodyguard during the aftermath of a fire outbreak in Karamoja in 2010.

"It was an advance which the minister got on his personal account. It was never accounted for and all I received was a receipt and a signature from his personal assistant," Agaba said, while appearing before Parliament's public accounts committee.

When contacted on Wednesday, Ecweru said he was in a meeting and could not comment on the matter.

Agaba said some of the money was also used to buy the fuel used by the ministers' team as he supervised the distribution of relief items there.

The committee, chaired by Terego County MP Kassiano Wadri, said the money paid to the minister was too much when compared to the recommended standard per diem.

"We are going to summon the minister. He has to tell us how he accounted for this money," said Kassiano.

Meanwhile, the committee also heard that an OPM official received sh78m to film non-existent houses purportedly constructed for Acholi traditional leaders.

Veterans' boss quizzed

The committee also grilled the Uganda Veteran Association Board's public relations officer, Samuel Mweru, for failure to account for sh1.2b meant for veterans.

Mweru, however, told the MPs that he refunded all the money.

"I got communication from the principal accountant in the OPM, Geoffrey Kazinda, telling me that money had been sent to my account. I immediately went to Kazinda and he told me that it was sent erroneously. I then went to the bank, withdrew the sh97m and gave it back to him," he said.

Mweru was given up to Friday next week to avail all the accountability documents.

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