MPs complained that the deployment of relatives in the same mission could trigger conflict of interest and protectionism in case of abuse of office.
Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Patrick Mugoye, has been tasked to explain the deployment of relatives in foreign missions.
This was after the Committee on Public Accounts Committee learnt that in Pretoria, after the retirement of one Kasozi, the Mission’s accounting officer, the ministry deployed Hellen Kayiza, his wife as a replacement. The two officers worked at the same mission.
The MPs complained that the deployment of relatives in the same mission could trigger conflict of interest and protectionism in case of abuse of office.
“As a committee, we find this deployment very strange. We don’t know whether the law allows this. This is conflict of interest.” MP Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka municipality) pointed out.
Singling out Uganda’s mission in Kigali, the MPs noted that whereas the Government had recruited five staff, the ministry of finance has been sending salary for 10 staff.
The MPs argued that the deployment of staff was not in line with the staffing structure that had been approved for the 35 missions abroad.
During the meeting, MPs, after the committee’s tour of foreign missions, put the ministry officials to task to explain why deployments to certain missions abroad had exceeded the approved staffing levels.
“Are you aware that some missions have staff not officially recruited by the ministry? Instead they were brought in by friends and relatives and government is paying them salaries?” Mpuuga asked.
Mogoya seemed to have been taken by surprise and said he was not aware. “Madam Chairperson, I am not aware. How can that happen?” he asked.
He explained that he had just joined the ministry, but his predecessor (Amb. James Mugume), would be in a better position to answer some of the questions.
The officials had appeared before the committee, chaired by Angelina Osege, to explain some of the outstanding queries in the Auditor General's reports for three financial years from 2013 to 2016.
Although Mugoye tried to distance himself from the issues of payments to the illegal staff, saying it’s the Ministry of Finance, the MPs insisted that he was responsible for the structure and, therefore, should answer.
“Who deploys the staff? Don’t run away from the matter. As the accounting officer, this is one of your responsibilities?” MP Gerald Karuhanga said.
The MPs also asked Mugoya to explain why the ministry has been spending a lot of money on rent, yet the available mortgage offers would cost an equivalent of the annual budget for rent or even less.
“In Pretoria, the Government pays $700 as rent per month. We have been informed that you refused to implement the idea that this money can get you a mortgage,” Mpuuga argued.
The MPs further noted that a number of missions have not been remitting the non-tax revenue. For example, in 2015 financial year, Uganda’s mission in Beijing did not remit sh350m.
Mugoya informed the committee that the missions were facing a number of challenges that needed urgent attention. They range from security, language and others.
He said out of 35 missions abroad, 16 do not own any property as a result, government spends over sh34b annually in rent for office space, official residences and residences for staff.
But the MPs insisted that they didn’t want lectures on issues of missions, but accountability for the funds that were allocated to them during the financial years under review.