23 May 2018

Uganda: Trouble At Uganda Mission in Algiers

Photo: The Observer
Uganda’s ambassador to Algeria and the Maghreb region John Chrysostom Alintuma Nsambu presenting his credentials in Algeria in 2017.

Bad blood is flowing between Uganda's ambassador to Algeria and the Maghreb region John Chrysostom Alintuma Nsambu and the mission's accounting officer Fredrick Tushabe over management of funds.

This follows a visit by Nsambu to the mission's bankers in Tunis early in March which prompted Nsambu to write to Tushabe on March 18 asking him to submit to the administrative attaché staff files, files of properties being rented, minutes of the finance committee meetings dating back three years, a copy of the mission's procurement file, among others.

"Should there be hindrance in effecting the above, please express your reservations in writing," Nsambu wrote.

According to correspondences between the two officials that The Observer has seen, Nsambu convened a special management meeting on April 9 to discuss the issues affecting the mission.

This was after the embassy staff recruited locally wrote a demand note for their wages and allowances plus a refund of their personal money they had used to do official embassy work. For instance, a one Fatima Sedrati used personal money to load airtime on her mobile phone to make official phone calls.

Nsambu's official driver, Adel Hamdi, used his personal money to buy two official suits - which ordinarily are supposed to be provided by the embassy.

On the same date, April 9, Dennis Kalikola, the second secretary at the embassy, had written to the permanent secretary, ministry of Foreign Affairs, demanding payment of his allowances totalling to $6,687 (Shs 24.7m) covering education, child, climatic clothing and warm clothing.

"Since the beginning of the financial year 2017/18, I have submitted requests for consideration of the above payments to the last three quarterly finance committee meetings in vain. The usual reason given is that funds are not available to meet these obligations. This letter serves to seek your guidance on the way forward and administrative intervention as the financial year draws to an end," Kalikola wrote.

During this period, the embassy's internet access had been cut over a debt amounting to 96,960 Algerian dinars (about Shs 875,800).

Without a response, Nsambu called another meeting on April 29, to discuss the mission's financial woes which had extended from the non-payment of the mission's staff salaries and allowances to the disconnection of power at his residence over unpaid power bills.

In the meeting, sources at the embassy said, Tushabe reported that the government had not remitted money.

Somehow, the meeting resolved that Nsambu, Tushabe and Samsom Kamugendera, the financial attaché, travel to Union Internationale de Banques - the mission's bankers in Tunis to reconcile the mission's bank statements.

While air tickets to Tunis were bought for the three officials, Nsambu found himself all alone at the airport in Algiers, off to the bank in Tunis.

At the bank, it was discovered Tushabe, Kalikola and Kamugendera had quietly transferred Euros 23,781 (Shs 104.13m) to their personal accounts according to a letter to the bank dated April 22 and signed by both Tushabe and Kamugendera.

To withdraw the money, Nsambu alleges, the two officials showed the bank a forged letter from him.

"According to the financial regulations of most countries in [the Maghreb region], it is the head of mission [ambassador] who has to be the chief signatory to all financial transactions of the mission. For our case, since that account was opened at the time when Tushabe was acting ambassador, he has to present to the bank a letter of authorisation from me," Nsambu told The Observer.

TUSHABE HITS BACK

On May 3, Tushabe wrote to Nsambu a letter that he also copied to other embassy staff. In the letter, Tushabe told Nsambu that he is under no obligation to avail any documents to him.

"As accounting officer, and in fulfilment of the functions as listed in the Public Finance Management Act 2015, I reserve the right to keep the documents that support my duties in fulfilment of the functions," Tushabe wrote.

He also told Nsambu that in case there were any correspondences that he made without Nsambu's knowledge, he [Tushabe] and Kamugendera are willing to take him through.

Nsambu responded by stopping both official's access to the mission's bank account in Tunis but also withdrew money to pay his salary and allowances, which incensed Tushabe so much he reported the ambassador to their bosses in Kampala.

Tushabe's report met another which had already been filed by Nsambu which prompted the ministry of Foreign Affairs to freeze the embassy bank account.

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