By Moses Walubiri
Uganda’s mission in Juba is caught up in an accountability query stretching up to three years (June 2009 to June 2011) with the Auditor General’s report for the period under review parting curtains on a slew of financial anomalies.
The queries involving sums of money totaling to sh6b, the Auditor General contends, arise from a breach of a string of public finance laws and regulations by then accounting officer, Habib Migade.
Among anomalies at which the Auditor General raised a red flag include failure to remit non-tax revenue (NTR), failure to remit unspent balance to the consolidated fund by the end of given financial years, questionable payment of allowances and unexplained deposits to the mission’s account.
In an interface with legislators on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Migade put a spirited defense of his handling of the mission’s finances, although on many key queries requested for more time to get necessary supporting documents.
“These are many years since I left Juba. But if given time, I can get all the supporting documents on these queries,” Migade said when asked by MPs Tim Lwanga and Alice Alaso whether he ever carried out bank reconciliations over alleged remitted NTR.
In the financial year ending June 2010, Migade sanctioned the withdrawal of $442,500 (about sh1.1b) of which $117,500 (sh293m) remained unaccounted for by the time of audit.
In his response to the query, Migade, now an official at ministry of foreign affairs said a huge chunk of the money was used for security purposes at a time South Sudan was preparing for the referendum on secession from Khartoum.
When asked whether the expenditure was part of the mission’s budget, Migade came clean on the anomaly, but not without a fight.
“The permanent secretary ministry of foreign affairs was aware of this expenditure,” Migade said.
According to Public Finance and Accountability Act, any diversion of public funds from activities such monies are appropriated for must have the explicit permission of the Secretary to the Treasury and not permanent secretaries.
Another query in the year ending June 2011 indicates that sh1.9b of un-spent mission funds were not remitted to the consolidated fund in breach of laws and standing orders governing public funds.
However, the clincher in the queries relate to the botched multi-billion shillings project to build a market for Ugandans operating in Juba, with the Auditor General raising a red flag over suspicious payment of sh34m in “night allowances” to ministry of works staff for designing the market.
However, investigations by the committee indicate that the work was done at ministry offices in Kampala, which makes the payment fraudulent.
MPs Eddie Kwizera, Paul Mwiru and Gerald Karuhanga shot down Migade’s plea that his non-accountancy academic background was to blame for his failure to grasp key tenets of public financial regulations.
“You don’t need to be an accountant to be an accounting officer,” Kwizera said after Migade failed to explain his ‘unorthodox’ management of the mission’s finances.
Recently, a section of MPs on the PAC made a visit to the Juba mission, with remnants of the staff refuting Migade’s claims about the audit queries.
Uganda’s mission in Juba is one of its youngest, serving a growing Ugandan community in a country currently reeling from a ruinous internecine conflict.
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