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MPs probe sh685m Park Yard market funds

By Vision Reporter

Added 18th July 2013 01:33 PM

MPs on the public accounts committee on Wednesday quizzed the Kampala United Park Yard Cooperative Savings and Credit Society bosses over sh685m meant for Park Yard market vendors.

MPs probe sh685m Park Yard market funds

MPs on the public accounts committee on Wednesday quizzed the Kampala United Park Yard Cooperative Savings and Credit Society bosses over sh685m meant for Park Yard market vendors.

By Umaru Kashaka
    
MPs on the public accounts committee on Wednesday quizzed the Kampala United Park Yard Cooperative Savings and Credit Society bosses over sh685m meant for Park Yard market vendors.

Appearing before the committee as key witnesses in the botched sh10b Presidential initiative project on markets, both the chairperson and the manager heaped more blame on the head of Finance at Microsoft Support Centre (MSC), Jackson Sabila for causing financial loss of sh472m.

The chairperson Charles Lubega and Moses Eserait, the manager, disclosed how Sabila instructed them to withdraw money from Centenary Bank and later called one of them (Eserait)to Cooper Complex in central Kampala, where the latter could hand him the money in portions.

“When we got sh685m from MSC in February 2012, we managed to distribute sh213m to over 590 vendors and the rest (sh472m) remained on account after being told by MSC that it was meant for vendors of various markets, and that our SACCO was being used as a conduit for vendors who never had any,” Lubega who spoke in Luganda told the committee, chaired by the Terego County MP, Kassiano Wadri.

He added: “The whole exercise from the beginning to the end was shrouded in mystery because we never even asked for that money in the first place and had no list of beneficiaries with us when signing MoUs with MSC in Kololo, but ordered to just sign, something we did under duress.”

He explained that MSC told them each vendor was to receive sh30, 000 but after being overwhelmed by the beneficiaries who included masqueraders at their offices, they decided to distribute sh300, 000 to every group of ten members.

“We distributed sh213m using the list from MSC within the period of two chaotic months,” he noted.
Asked to shed more light on the other sh472m, Lubega implored: “Let the manager explain that because he’s the one who used to hand Sabila this money in portions.”

MPs then tasked Eserait to explain how Sabila got the money and on which grounds.

“I handed over sh472m to him on understanding he would distribute it to the beneficiaries and that he would provide accountability later,” he said, adding: “Yes I withdrew the money in five phases and I would give Sabila sh100m every time we could link up at Cooper Complex and in the bank itself,” he testified.

Asked why he continued to give Sabila money despite the latter not showing accountability and even declining to sign bank statements, Esarait remarked: “I admit I made a mistaken, but given also the financial constraints we’re in and that MSC had promised to bail us out by lending us sh500m, I had no choice but to let him take the money without signing and accounting for it.”

On Tuesday, the same committee tasked the chairperson of Ntinda New Market SACCO to explain the whereabouts of sh118m meant for vendors of both the new and the old Ntinda markets.

Wilson Bikangaga denied having any knowledge about the sh13m for  the old market, but pinned Sabila on sh105m loss meant for over 414 of new marke vendors.

“Sabila called me after I withdrew the money but when he refused to sign the voucher in the Garden City mall basement, I smelt a rat,” Bikangaga said, adding: “I did not want to cause commotion when he refused to sign, claiming that there was no need to do so.”

He told MPs that it was an oversight on his part that he took long to blow the whistle until the auditors raised queries.

While this money was supposed to form a Revolving Fund where vendors could access affordable working capital at no interest rate, the Auditor General’s report, says former Finance Minister Syda Bbumba and other Finance officials decided to send the money to MSC, where it was abused.

The witnesses noted that after MSC credited SACCOs, the same officials asked the vendors to withdraw it and take it to them for onward distribution.

All witnesses were requested to record statements with the police after giving conflicting accounts of the events.

MPs probe sh685m Park Yard market funds

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