By Mary Karugaba
ACCORDING to the National Budget, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is one of the sectors that receive the biggest allocations. Most of its expenditures are spent on construction and maintenance of national roads.
The Authority has however come under fire over alleged fraudulent payment of sh1.4b to Shell Uganda Limited by authority officials and by the time the auditors reviewed UNRA’s books, sh1.1b had already been paid out.
An audit of the Authority’s expenditures by the Auditor General in a report to Parliament revealed that during the period from 1st July, 2012 to April 30, 2013, individuals from UNRA received excess fuel and lubricants from a fuel company compared to what was ordered for by UNRA through the Director Finance and Administration for each station.
At the end, the company over invoiced UNRA sh1.4b for fuel and lubricants which it did not download. Some of the over invoiced fuel was for fuel stations that had not dealt with any of the UNRA stations.
The auditors said some of the withdrawals were so abnormal to the extent that the same fuel card was used to make downloads at the same time or span of 5 times on the same day from different fuel stations which were 400 km apart from each other.
“The fuel company interchanged code numbers for some fuel stations to cover up the fraud. For example; one of the branches had two code numbers, 239 and 238 that were used interchangeably. In most cases the excess fuel and lubricants were downloaded just before stations made their first transaction using the fuel card,” the report indicates.
The auditors suspect that more money was involved in the fraudulent transaction since they did not audit the fuel payments for the districts of Masaka and Gulu where the auditors did not get access to information in time.
According to the report, most of the disputed fuel and lubricants by UNRA stations appearing on the monthly statements of accounts was downloaded outside the operational areas of the respective stations.
But UNRA in a response to the allegations said it has instituted an investigation into the matter to establish the amount that is not supported and action shall then be taken.
As a result, the Authority has withheld payment of invoices to Shell amounting to over sh3.5 billion pending the conclusion of the investigation.
“This was an issue of over invoicing by Shell Uganda Limited which was initially found out during the routine process of verification and confirming the correctness of the invoices submitted to UNRA for payment,” the report indicates.
UNRA further explained that preliminary communication was made to Shell Uganda Limited over the same subject culminating into a full process of reconciliation of all fuel supplies by Shell Uganda Limited.
The auditor General further raised concern over variation of Price by UNRA that led to excess payment of sh33b on the two contracts for Kazo–Kamwenge and Fort Portal–Bundibuyo–Lamia roads
The auditors have raised the issue of price adjustments in the in the previous three audit reports and UNRA “has not resolved this matter fully.”
The report recommends that the amounts ascertained to have been certified in excess or overpaid should be recovered from the contractors.
UNRA in response said, the payment for the two roads Kazo-Kamwenge and Fort Portal–Bundibugyo–Lamia roads has been withheld pending the results of the joint verification exercise.