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PAC grills Fort Portal hospital officials over budget reallocation

FILE PHOTO: Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Officials from Fort Portal Regional Referral Hospital were on Thursday grilled by the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee over the expenditure of Shillings 100.13 million on unbudgeted items and failure to collect non-tax revenue.

Led by Dr Alex Adaku the hospital director, the officials appeared before the committee to respond to audit queries raised by Auditor General John Muwanga in his financial year 2018/2019 audit report.

In the report, Muwanga queried the mischarge of expenditure amounting to Shillings 100.13 million. He said that the money was charged on expenditure item codes which do not reflect the nature of the expenditure.

“Mischarge of expenditure undermines the importance of the budgeting process as well as the intentions of the appropriating authority. There is a need to always spend per the approved budget,” said Auditor General Muwanga.

Adaku explained that staff salaries for locally contracted staff were paid from allowances since money was not sufficient to cover their wages and were threatening to strike which would impact on service delivery.

He told PAC that permission was obtained from the Hospital Management Board to use allowances to pay contract staff.

MPs also learned that money allocated to buy fuel for the generator was diverted to pay UMEME for YAKA since it was more efficient.

Bukoto East MP Florence Namayanja said that the Public Finance Management Act requires clearance from the Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi for any re-allocation and that in the absence of this clearance, the committee is to sustain the query and hold the accounting officer liable.

PAC vice chairperson Okin Ojara also wondered how a hospital board became an appropriation authority.

“If the board approved this kind of transaction, we will need minutes of this week by Tuesday next week and know where they got the mandate to reallocate funds,” said Okin.

Okin said that the hospital should have planned and substantively budgeted for UMEME so that money for other activities is not encroached on.

Efforts by the hospital procurement officer Moses Odeng to defend the expenditure on YAKA were rejected by Okin saying that the medical facility just needs proper planning.

The Committee also questioned the hospital officials on the revenue performance at the hospital. This emanates from a query by the auditor general where he indicated that during the financial year 2018/2019, the government planned to release a total of Shillings 9.83 billion to the hospital but analysis revealed that a total of Shillings 9.5 billion was released representing 97 percent performance.

“The shortfall was attributed majorly to shortfalls in Non-Tax Revenue. Out of the 758 million planned, only 430.4 million was collected. I advised the accounting officer to devise strategies to ensure that budgeted NTR is collected to avoid significant shortfalls that may affect service delivery by the hospital,” said that Auditor General.

Dr Adaku told MPs that during the budgeting process for financial year 2019/2020, the NTR budget was adjusted downwards basing on past performance with advice from the Ministry of Finance.

“It should also be noted that these are funds we collect from patients and we do not need to pray that people fall sick so that we meet the targets,” he said.

However, Namayanja and PAC vice chairperson Okin Ojara took offence of Adaku’s submission questioning why the hospital planned to collect the NTR if they were not able to collect the same.

Ojara also alleged the over planning in collections is an element of fraud used for facilities to receive money from Finance and in the end, fail to meet their bargain.

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