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PAC calls for fresh probe into Luweero-Rwenzori veterans payments

FILE PHOTO: PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi 

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has resolved to conduct further investigations into payments to different beneficiaries under the Luwero-Rwenzori Triangle Initiative, commonly referred to as Akasiimo.

PAC Chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi tasked the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CID) and the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) to scrutinize a schedule of over 10,000 beneficiaries that they paid during the financial year 2017/2018, to rule out the theft of public funds.

He further summoned schedules of previous payments so that the same procedure can be applied to inform the committee’s final decision on the programme.

OPM is charged with the mandate of paying gratuity to non-combatant war veterans under the Luwero-Rwenzori Triangle Programme and in its execution, the office relies on a list verified by the Luwero Triangle War Debt Verification Committee. Beneficiaries receive a one-off payment transferred through Centenary Bank.

But the June 2018 Audit report raised concern over the absence of a comprehensive verifiable database of the veterans paid and those awaiting payment since the inception of the programme ten years ago. The Database, according to the Auditor General, would have details about the veterans who were verified, verified and paid, verified but not paid and those pending verification.

The committee learnt that the Office of the Prime Minister maintains a manual database of schedules sent for payment. According to the Auditor General, such a database can easily be misplaced and that there is a risk of making double payment to beneficiaries due to lack of a verifiable database.

Information before PAC indicates that 135.9 billion Shillings has been spent on 60,948 beneficiaries since the financial year 2008/2009 to the end of financial year 2017/2018. In addition, another 25.02 billion was transferred to the programme account during the financial year 2018/2019.

Joel Wanjala, the Undersecretary in the Office of the Prime Minister told PAC that they have a target of 80,000 veterans and that the available database starts with financial year 2016/2017.

However, MPs questioned the mechanism to ensure that those already paid do not receive double payments in the absence of a verifiable database. PAC Chairperson Nandala Mafabi asked whether his explanation was ruling out findings by the Auditor General that indicated a lack of a database.

The Undersecretary maintained that he has schedules of those paid since financial year 2017/2018 to date were available but noted that reconciliation for the previous years since the programme started can be availed by the Bank. Nandala directed that all available payment schedules be availed for further scrutiny.

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