Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs on Friday came under fire over advance payment of Shillings 375.6 million to staff personal bank accounts contrary to the Treasury Accounting Instructions.
Led by the Permanent Secretary Lynette Bagonza, these were before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee-PAC to answer audit queries raised in the financial year 2018/2019.
MPs learnt that during the financial year, 375.6 million was advanced to Ministry staff through their personal bank accounts to undertake various operational activities and in some instances to pay suppliers.
PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi said that this act contravenes the 2017 Treasury Accounting Instructions which require that all government payments processed through the Government Financial Management Information System (GFMIS) be made by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to the beneficiary bank accounts.
In his previous reports, Auditor General John Muwanga said the practice of depositing money into personal accounts exposes government funds to risk of loss since the releasing entity doesn’t have any control over such funds deposited on personal accounts.
Internal Affairs Ministry Permanent Secretary, Lynette Bagonza regretted the anomaly telling PAC that they have since started implementing e-cash payment system.
She however said that some activities such as prevention of trafficking in persons, the beneficiaries are not readily predictable and yet issues in these cases are of an emergency nature and require funds to be advanced to the responsible officer for utilization whenever incidences of human trafficking are reported.
Mbarara Municipality MP Micheal Tusiime questioned how the Ministry predicted the budget for prevention of trafficking if the beneficiaries are not readily predicted. Bagonza said that they have standard activities for prevention of trafficking like training and that it’s only cases where trafficked persons are being returned that they can’t predict. However, her explanation didn’t convince Tusiime.
Nandala maintained that money sent on personal accounts is hard to audit if it has done the intended work. He tasked Bagonza to reappear before the committee with accountability for the money sent to personal accounts.
Meanwhile, the officials were also questioned about the under absorption of funds highlighted in the audit report for financial year 2018/2019. The Auditor General Muwanga reported under absorption of funds to the tune of Shillings 584.2 million.
According to the report, the Ministry of Internal Affairs received 28.35 billion in the financial year and out of this, 27.76 billion was spent leaving an unspent balance of Shillings 584.2 million.
“Failure to absorb funds was partly due to failure to undertake some activities such as 100 Non- Government Organisations (NGOs) not inspected, development impact assessments not done, monitoring and evaluation frameworks not developed, project proposals not developed and others. Budget shortfalls and failure to spend funds resulted in partial and non-implementation of planned activities,” said Muwanga.
In her response, Bagonza told PAC that the 584.2 million which was swept back to the Consolidated Fund was conditional money meant for staff salaries, pension and gratuity.
She says that the under absorption was due to the delays in receiving clearance from Ministry of Public Service to recruit new staff coupled with delays in the recruitment process because of lack of a functioning service commission to fill the staffing gaps and submission of relevant documents for verification by the beneficiaries of pension.