Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of Parliament on the Finance Committee have questioned the competence of the government’s internal Auditor-General, Dr Fixon Akonya Okonye.
This was on Friday during the committee meeting with Okonye and other officials from the Ministry of Finance over the current stock of domestic arrears. The committee learnt that an earlier audit had indicated arrears at 2.1 trillion while the independent audit by Ernst & Young discovered that arrears to a tune of Shillings 400 billion had no documentation to support them.
Henry Musasizi, the chairperson of the Finance Committee was baffled by the appointment of an independent consultant-Ernst & Young to verify the stock of domestic arrears without the involvement of the Auditor General or the Internal Auditor General.
He wondered why Okonye committed such an oversight of failing to verify all domestic arrears something that he is mandated to do.
Okonye admitted that the external audit firm Ernst & Young had been contracted by the Finance Ministry and handed terms of reference that he was not aware of. He, however, said that his office was working with the audit firm and that a final report would have to be validated by him.
David Bahati, the Minister of State for Planning defended the appointment of Ernst and Young saying that the firm was able to identify 400 billion worth of arrears that were doubtful.
Bahati also noted that Okonye had also played his part and that his efforts were supplemented by the private auditors. He asked MPs to be grateful that government was able to save Shillings 400 billion in fictitious arrear claims.
“We contracted an external auditor to look into public debt which has been increasing annually. We contracted Ernst and Young to audit arrears between June 2017 and June 2019 of Shillings 2.1 trillion and discovered that Shillings 400 billion had no evidence of their existence. They didn’t have delivery notes, and contracts,” said Bahati.
However, Kumi County MP Charles Illukor and Lugazi Municipality MP Ssozi Mulindwa were sceptical about the involvement of a consultant that brings into question the relevance of the Internal Auditor General. Illukor alluded to a possible lack of trust between the top management at the Ministry of Finance and the Internal Audit Office.
The committee resolved to hold another meeting with Okonye on Tuesday next week together with his supervisor, the Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi who hired Ernst & Young.
In June 2017, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) Irene Mulyagonja cautioned the Ministry of Finance against appointing Okonye as the Internal Auditor General. Akonye was shortlisted with Quinto Rwatoyera and Richard Bernard Gudiou Gid’Agui, but these and other candidates’ applications were rejected.
This was despite a thorough scrutiny into Okonye’s application which revealed that he did not meet some of the requirements needed for the job. IGG noted that he lacked the 15 years of membership in the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda, as required by the job specification.
Records showed that Akonye became a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in March 2006 and was enrolled as a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants on May 2nd 2006. This meant that he had only accumulated 10 years at the time he applied for the position of Internal Auditor General.