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MPs grill public service officials over domestic arrears

FILE PHOTO: PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has questioned the rejection of domestic arrears of 77.6 million Shillings by Ernst and Young, an audit firm that was contracted by the Ministry of Finance to validate all government arrears.

The Auditor General’s report for the financial year 2018/2019 reported accumulated domestic arrears of the Ministry of Public Service totalling 1.14 billion Shillings as of June 30, 2019. The Auditor-General showed that this was contrary to the Treasury Accounting Instructions which require accounting officers to ensure that no payments due remain unpaid at the end of the financial year.

Catherine Bitarakwate, the Ministry of Public Service Permanent Secretary says that the queried 1.14 billion Shillings arrears were mainly for contribution to the Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute- ESAMI ( Shillings 954.4 million) and others. She however said that of the accumulated arrears, 77.6 million Shillings has rejected by the auditor for unclear reasons.

PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi asked why the money had been rejected saying that there is a possibility that the Ministry had no proper documentation to support the areas.

Bitarakwate said that the money was a result of unfinished contractual obligations by some companies that left the Ministry with no option but to cancel the requisitions and local purchase orders that eventually freed money back and remitted to the Consolidated Fund.

“There is no documentation that initiated the procurement and therefore in the absence of history or record of the procurement, it left us with no option but to cancel. We cannot discuss them any further because we cannot confirm,” said Bitarakwate.

Nandala tasked the Ministry on whether the companies had been blacklisted due to failure to meet contractual obligations but Bitarakwate maintained that there was no trail of this activity in the Ministry and therefore no starting process for them to take action.

The Auditor-General has in his previous audit report cautioned against the accumulation of domestic arrears saying that they expose government entities to risks of litigation from suppliers and may also affect the implementation of activities in the next financial year.

Bitarakwate says that her Ministry has made efforts to reduce arrears and to avoid the accumulation of new ones.

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