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MPs question delayed appointment of Human Rights Commission boss

Acting accounting officer of UHRC Margaret Ejang appearing before PAC. Courtesy photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has questioned the failure by the president to appoint a new chairperson for the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC).

The previous chairperson of the commission Med Sozzi Kaggwa died in November last year. However, he has never been replaced close to eight months down the road. It’s on the basis of this that the committee pointed to the gross under performance of the commission in the absence of a fully constituted team.

The committee was meeting a team of accounting officers from government institutions that fall under the Justice Law and order sector (JLOS), led by the Solicitor General Francis Atoke to respond to queries in the auditor general’s report for the financial year 2018/2019 on Thursday.

The Auditor-General specifically queried the failure by the commission to utilize its financial allocations. Margaret Ejang, the acting accounting officer of the Uganda Human Rights Commission was asked to explain why a sum of 1.3 billion Shillings remained unspent during the year under review.

But in her defence, Ejang noted that funds meant for the reduction of case backlog by the commission remained unused due to lack of a fully constituted commission. During the period under review, the commission had only two members bringing the tribunal sessions to a halt.

According to Ejang, the commission currently has four commissioners. But the UHRC Act stipulates that quorum must consist of at least three commissioners plus the chairperson.

The MPs tasked Atoke to explain why the position of the chairperson has remained vacant. Atoke, however, said that the responsibility of naming a replacement solely falls to the President to whom suggestions have already been forwarded.

Okin Ojara, the vice-chairperson of the committee noted that the committee will have to raise the matter before the house.

Meanwhile, Ejang added that 600 million Shillings meant for the construction of the Gulu office also remained unused after the contractor abandoned the site while the planned purchase of a civic education van worth 220 million Shillings could not be completed because there was no response to the advertisement.

Committee chairman Nathan Nandala Mafabi tasked Atoke, as the JLOS accounting officer, to brief the committee on what action he had taken against accounting officers who fail to complete work plans.

Atoke argued that at some institutions under JLOS including the UHRC, there were a number of critical challenges that affected operations including a change of accounting officers. When pressed further, he indicated the interdiction of senior staff at the commission.

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