By Chris Kiwawulo
The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) is in a financial crisis following the suspension of aid by donors, New Vision has learnt.
As a result of the financial hardships at the humanitarian agency, URCS staff members have not got salaries since January, one of the senior employees who preferred anonymity confirmed.
“Ever since the donors suspended support towards Red Cross in September, we have been in financial hardships. Even the salaries between September and December came in late because management had to look here and there,” the employee revealed.
Sources said donors are waiting for results from a forensic audit into URCS activities and a progress report from interim Secretary General, Ken Odur.
According to sources, Odur was given six months to show change and progress at URCS before donors could rethink their position regarding financing assistance towards the humanitarian agency.
When contacted, URCS spokesperson Catherine Ntabadde could neither confirm nor deny the crisis but referred New Vision to the Secretary General (Odur). Odur’s aide who picked the phone said her boss was locked up in a meeting and she promised that he would get back, although he had not by press time.
A team of auditors from PricewaterhouseCoopers based in Geneva, Switzerland, arrived in the country in December 2013 to conduct a forensic audit of URCS. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers to carry out the audit.
The two-member team was tasked to investigate URCS’ activities following reports of smuggling and tax evasion that rocked the humanitarian agency recently. The two Auditors; Beat Weber, a Senior Manager and Andre Caria, a Senior Assurance officer are in Uganda to a conduct a scoping audit.
The audit follow Police and Uganda Revenue Authority’s finding of suspected smuggled goods at the home of former URCS secretary General, Michael Nataka, in Munyonyo. Nataka, who has since been dismissed, was replaced by Odur. Odur was the deputy secretary General for Kenyan Red Cross Society.
Several URCS senior staff and board members were also sacked. URCS board chairman Robert Ssebunya was also replaced by Kajara County Member of Parliament, Stephen Tashobya, who is the interim Central Governing Board chairman.
The board dismissed suspended finance director Sarah Ndegemu and her deputy Geoffrey Wepondi while Richard Amadra, the undersecretary general in charge of institutional development was pardoned after he reportedly pleaded with the board.
According to investigations, the sacked URCS senior staff members were accused of forgery, improper use of the organization funds, expenditures without authority, inter-borrowing without authority and flouting procurement procedures.