Uganda: Auditor General Pins 11 Ministries

2 September 2020

Of the 487 financial audits concluded for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), commissions, statutory and state enterprises, projects, districts and municipalities, 433 (89 per cent) had unqualified opinions and 54 (11 per cent had qualified opinions.

Qualified means qualified for punishment. The agencies qualified for punishment include Uganda National Roads Authority, Judiciary, Uganda Law Reform Commission, Ugandan embassy in China, Mulago national referral hospital, ministry of Health, National Drug Authority, Uganda Cancer Institute, Uganda Heart Institute and Equal Opportunities Commission.

UNRA, according to the Auditor General, diverted up to Shs 341.2 billion from planned activities without authority. The entity also made payments for un-budgeted domestic arrears amounting up to Shs 224.5 billion. UNRA also incurred a nugatory expenditure amounting to Shs 8.1 billion and $800,448 that arose out of penalties for court cases and interest on delayed payments of advances from various contractors.

The Judiciary irregularly diverted Shs 565 million on activities that had not been approved, and a total of Shs 1.2 billion remains unaccounted for as it lacked supporting documents such as acknowledgment receipts.

Also Shs 103 million was diverted from the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) Sector Wide Approach (SWAP) funds to refund bail claimants' money that went missing and the money has never been refunded or recovered from the responsible officers.

Judiciary also failed to account for Shs 84 million paid to officers of the registry High court in Kampala. Payment vouchers worth Shs 320 million paid to various officers and companies by the registrar High court during the financial year under review were missing. Another Shs 237 million was ineligibly expensed on the registrar High court.

Ministry of Health made unsupported adjustments relating to domestic arrears amounting to Shs 1.5 billion, overdrafts worth Shs 1.03 billion and bounced EFTs amounting to Shs 313 million. The ministry also mischarged or diverted funds worth Shs 3.1 billion, Shs 2.7 billion was paid out as pension without verification of salary, gratuity and pension files.

Uganda Cancer Institute diverted Shs 497 million off Shs 7 billion allocated to deliver cancer care services to other activities while National Drug Authority failed to utilise funds worth Shs 39 billion from a capital expenditure budget of Shs 41 billion.

Mulago hospital charged Shs 3.2 billion on items that do not reflect the nature of expenditure as defined per government chart of accounts. The Auditor General also faulted the hospital management for collecting only Shs 4 billion against a budgeted revenue target of 13 billion - a 70 per cent underperformance.

Furthermore, the hospital declared only 41 registered ventures as operating on hospital land but a physical count inspection revealed that 145 ventures were on the hospital land and only the less profitable ones were declared. Mulago also fell short on developing performance agreements/targets, failed to develop performance appraisals, failed to monitor staff attendance, and among others.

The Uganda Heart Institute, meanwhile, diverted Shs 579 million earmarked to be spent on planned activities without authority. The Auditor General also observed that the institute had over 270 patients waiting for surgery and patients usually have to wait for up to two years to be operated on. Although the institute makes waivers for various reasons, there is no waiver's policy to provide guidance on the matter.

The Ugandan embassy in China diverted Shs 654 million without authority from the accountant general and Shs 33 million reported as outstanding advances has taken a long period without recovery from concerned officials. Another Shs 209m remained unaccounted for at the time of the audit.

Uganda Law Reform Commission irregularly diverted and spent Shs 59 million on other activities at code level without the necessary approvals while Shs 1.1 billion was also diverted from programs on which they were budgeted and spent on other programs without authority.

Equal Opportunities Commission irregularly diverted Shs 783 million without approval, Shs 144 million employer contribution was not remitted to National Social Security Fund. Management also irregularly paid Shs 668 million and Shs 322 million towards duty and consultancy allowances irrespectively.

The AG's report noted that various entities charged wrong expenditure codes amounting to a total of Shs 384 billion. This practice, the AG says, leads to financial misreporting and undermines the budgeting process.

A total of Shs 19 billion remained unaccounted for by the time of the audit, contrary to the Public Finance and Accounting Regulations. Judiciary failed to account for Shs 1.2 billion; Uganda embassy in Rome, Shs 206 million, Ugandan embassy in China, Shs 209 million, Ugandan embassy in Ethiopia, Shs 234 million; Kyambogo University, Shs 296 million, ministry of Water and Environment, Shs 136; million; and Uganda National Children's Authority, Shs 52 million.

"In the absence of proper accountability, the auditor general could not provide assurance as to whether the funds involved were utitlised for the intended purposes."

The ministry of Finance sought for Shs 1.7 billion supplementary budget from parliament. Parliament approved and appropriated only Shs 615 million but Finance went ahead and spent Shs 1.1 billion.

Maxwell Ongetho from the Auditor General's Office challenged civil society organisations to make follow-ups on the AG's report by reaching out to the local communities and make them understand that the reason for poor service delivery was due to theft of public funds.

"We want a comprehensive system on implementation... What we want is this to be reflective on a shared platform; wherever you are you can punch in, check and say this entity of Local Government A in the last five years, these were the issues raised. The Auditor General is saying this has been implemented, this has not been implemented. Then you're able to go and verify," he said.

"The civil society has a special role because you're the lead link between we who write in a professional way, there are standards, there are procedures of the paper and for our work to be appreciated we have to do that. Now you, you understand both our language and also the language of the local people... . Talk about the service missed." he added.

Ogentho said the accountability government officials and contractors talk about on paper should also be reflective on the ground. He said parliament should ask the questions of paper accountability while civil society ask for tangible accountability. He also said that society should make it scary and embarrassing for officials to steal government money.

"If everything is fine, the two should tally; not engineers attaching receipts but when you go down, there is no borehole. This is like a relay race; if there are four they should all relate with each other... I am not sure there is any technology that will replace the physical reality of what you see on the ground. I don't see a situation where we have solved all the problems and there is no need for civil society," Ogentho said.

fkisakye@observer.ug

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