Uganda: Government Wants to Review Ag's Report Before MPs' Scrutiny

14 September 2018

Kampala — Officials from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) want to review the Auditor General's report to identify the ministries, government departments and agencies that are queried so that government can act on them before the audit report gets to the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC).

The resolution was made yesterday at the end of a two-day government retreat that at the Prime Minister's Office to review the government performance in financial year 2017/2018. Among those reviewed at the retreat was the Auditor General's report released in December 2017.

Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, the Government Chief Whip, said there is an urgent need for the OPM to institute a team led by the Minister for General Duties, Ms Mary Karoro Okurut, to study the report for government to act accordingly.

"I want to suggest that the minister for General Duties and the team that organised this meeting sit down as soon as possible to study this report so as they identify the ministries, departments and agencies that are culpable for such financial losses and other issues raised," she said.

She said government cannot afford to look on when MDAs are failing to satisfy the audit processes and wait for PAC to scrutinise the report years after the queries were raised.

Ms Nankabirwa was supported by the minister of Education and Sports, Ms Janet Museveni, together with Defence minister, Mr Adolf Mwesigye, who said that the process through which the Auditor General submits the report need to be reviewed.

"It is time that we should not wait for Parliament. Really, it will help us to know what is happening in our ministries and we take charge. Government gets to know when the reports come through PAC, it is not good," Ms Museveni, who is also the First Lady, said.

Mr Mwesigye said it is not good for the AG to discuss the report only with technical officers such as permanent secretaries when the ministers who are the overall heads of the ministries are not aware.

"Some of our colleague ministers' names have been smuggled into the Auditor General's report even at the level of Parliament and they begin to answer on matters they are not sure of. Had they been copied in the audit management letter, may be they would task their technical officers to take responsibility," he said.

Mr John Muwanga said the process of submitting his reports does not allow him to interact with political heads because the law only allows that it be submitted to Parliament.

"Our process is very clear that we have audit exit meetings with accounting officers whom we give the management letter. The report by law is submitted to Parliament and is made available to the accounting officers," he said.

Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, who welcomed the resolution for his office to study the 2016/2017 audit report, said it is not good for the political leaders. He said because the ministers and district chairpersons are not getting access to the Auditor General's reports, they do not take them seriously, adding that there is need for closer interactions between the two sides.

"The Auditor General's reports are not taken seriously until there is a problem. As political leaders we should not allow the technical officers to these audit queries without our knowledge," he said.

Mr Muwanga said the report for the year of review (2017/2018) is in the process hence his reason to present some of the findings of the 2016/2017 report that is before Parliament.

However, after the presentation of the report, the ministers at the retreat said the continuous raise of issues pointed out is because they do not get access to the report until PAC acts on it.

Some of the issues that led to the ministers' reactions include; the qualified opinion on government of Uganda consolidated financial statements where the Auditor General based his opinion on Shs83.8b for mischarge of expenditures, Shs8.5b for unaccounted for advances and Shs27.7b for outstanding commitments that are not supported with documents.

Other bases for the qualified opinion is the Shs103b spent by 14 entities, which were over and above the limit set by the Treasury and Shs274 billion spent by entities without following the Integrated Financial Management Systems (IFMS).

The Auditor General also queried the failure to collect royalties from gold exports leading to discrepancy between the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and the department of Geological Survey and Mines resulting into revenue losses of $16.95m (equivalent to Shs63.65b).

The report also pointed out that Shs2.7b of mineral rental fees payable by exploration and mining companies had not yet been paid to the land owners.

The discussion on the issues raised in the Auditor General's report turned dramatic when Ms Nankabirwa faulted Finance minister, Matia Kasaijja of failing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) under which government and the private sectors are supposed to jointly execute development projects.

Ms Nankiribirwa interrupted Mr Kasaija who was responding to some of the participants' concerns that the Auditor General's report was not posting a good picture for the government.

Mr Kasaija said: "The particular officers whose actions are likely to have resulted into the audit query should be held responsible. If it needs refund of the money let that officer do it and if it deserves dismissal, let Public Service dismiss the officer."

Ms Nankabirwa, however, accused Mr Kasaija of inaction to make regulations to operationalise the PPP Act hence failing development programmes supposed to be jointly implemented with private sector.

"Now, who is supposed to make the PPP regulations? Is it not you the Finance Minister?" she asked.

"Since you are the one suggesting that culpable officers be held responsible, when we sit in OPM to study the report, we will write to you on why you failed to make those regulations."

Mr Kasaija said his ministry has been working on those regulations but the Prime Minister asked him to tell the meeting at what stage they are so that everyone knows when they will be in place.

"Rt Hon Prime Minister, I am going back to check the progress and I will write to you in one week's time," Mr Kasaija said.

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