Uganda: Auditor General Can't Afford Stains

opinion

Recent media reports indicate that some officers at the Office of the Auditor General are allegedly exchanging their audit opinions for sums of money, usually determined by the officer or the team posted to an entity, thus aiding in occasioning loss to the State for private benefit.

This bitter reality has only come into the public domain after the now suspended chief executive officer of Uganda Airlines stated in a dossier to President Yoweri Museveni that officers from the Auditor General had allegedly asked for anything between Shs100 million and Shs150 million, if the airline was to get 'a good report'. The same dossier stated that auditors from the Ministry of Works and Transport which oversees the airline had also allegedly asked for $50,000 if the airline was to get a positive report.

While these do not come as major revelations, they confirm the position some people have held over time about the Auditor General's office. Just last year, executives from the Civil Aviation Authority complained about OAG staff who had allegedly asked for $1m to give a good report. While nothing came of these allegations then, the time for the Auditor General to act has come.

Insider jokes are that staff, who usually get a rotation of station every year and could be extended to a couple of years, are either rewarded or punished depending on the areas to which they get posted. It is alleged that postings within the agencies in infrastructure, for instance, are an elevation while being sent to health is a punishment.

These allegations cast all the good work that the Auditor General's office has done to the wind. It, therefore, begs the question. Are the reports from the Auditor General a true reflection of what is on the ground? Has the Auditor General's office been infiltrated by the self-seekers who now characterise part of the civil service? Are audit reports now on sale too?

The office of the Auditor General has been one of those that have done justice to the runaway spending in this country. It is the one report accounting officers do not want to see on their desks; especially if they have qualified reports.

It is also the report that MPs eagerly await for an entire year; just so they can rein in on errant accounting officers. It is one of the yardsticks on which the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury uses when determining which accounting officer receives a new contract and which ones need to be replaced as accounting officers of their entities to which they are assigned to.

It is such a shame that such an institution is now viewed in the same lens as the other institutions of the State in which a few individuals have made corruption and the institution's name one and the same.

For this, the Auditor General needs to act and act decisively.

I believe those individuals implicated in these allegations are known. Internal investigations should be instituted so as to offer a fair hearing to all parties, and if these persons are found to be wanting, then examples of them should be made so as to offer a deterrence to anybody else who may want to ask for money so as to offer 'a good report'.

The Auditor General also needs to lower the rotation period for all officers to one year such that nobody gets too comfortable, to cozy up with the entities they have been assigned to audit. No special considerations should be given even to those who have been posted to upcountry stations such as the local governments.

The office should also conduct lifestyle audits so as to ascertain that everybody is living within their means and these should be followed up by declarations to the Inspectorate of Government such that the checks stay in place much longer than the duration of this crisis that the office has found itself in.

Lastly, the office should make corruption so risky that the officers will start to live by the example set for them by the Auditor General himself who is viewed as selfless, professional and a person of integrity.

More From: Independent (Kampala)

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