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Gov’t institutions using Covid-19 as a cover-up for fraud: PAC

Public Accounts Committee (Central) chair by Medard Sseggona. File Photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has observed that government institutions are using the COVID-19 pandemic to justify the mismanagement of public funds.

The observation was made during a meeting on Thursday between the committee and officials from the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), as part of an inquiry into queries raised by the Office of the Auditor-General, regarding expenses made during the financial year 2020/2021.

According to the Auditor General, UVRI charged wrong expenditure codes to a tune of 53.3 million Shillings during the financial year under review. In the query, the Auditor General noted that such unauthorized reallocation undermines the importance of the budgeting process as well as the intentions of the appropriating authority.

But Julius Lutwama, the Deputy Director of the Uganda Virus Research Institute said that the agency used the money to procure COVID-19 test kits at a time when the country was handling the pandemic as an emergency situation. He however added that although they made several requests to the Ministry of Health for funding, they did not make a request with respect to the funds under question.

While MPs encouraged Lutwama to own up to the mistake, the Vice-Chairperson of the Committee Asuman Basalirwa dismissed the explanation and observed that this argument keeps coming up as an excuse by different government entities for mismanaging funds appropriated by Parliament.

Basalirwa emphasized that Covid-19 cannot be used as an excuse for breaching the law.

The committee directed the UVRI officials to avail documents indicating how the queried funds were spent and the activities that were affected by the diversion of funds.

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