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Muhakanizi grilled over theft of funds in Uganda's embassies

By Moses Mulondo

Added 19th July 2017 02:58 PM

The Auditor General discovered that in Uganda’s mission in Beijing, visa stickers worth $25,000 (sh90m) went missing

Muhakanizi grilled over theft of funds in Uganda's embassies

The Auditor General discovered that in Uganda’s mission in Beijing, visa stickers worth $25,000 (sh90m) went missing

The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has grilled the Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi over alleged theft of funds at Uganda's foreign missions.

Muhakanizi and the accountant general, Lawrence Ssemakula, were appearing before the committee on Friday to answer queries in the Auditor General's report for the 2014/15 financial year.

The committee meeting chaired by Gerald Karuhanga asked Muhakanizi to explain why many missions fail to remit non-tax revenue to the Finance Ministry and why many of them spend beyond what they are authorized to spend.

Muhakanizi explained that he had tasked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary, Patrick Mugoya, who is directly responsible for the accounting officers in those missions abroad but he was surprised that at that time Mugoya had not taken the necessary action.

The Auditor General had discovered for instance that in Uganda's mission in Beijing, visa stickers worth $25,000 (sh90m) went missing from the embassy and have not yet been recovered.

The same embassy also spent a total of sh209.6m from the non-tax revenue it collects without the approval of the Ministry of Finance.

The committee named accounting officer Simon Ajiku and another Isingoma Kusemererwa as the culprits who ought to have been punished by the Secretary to the Treasury for misappropriating funds in the Beijing embassy.

The Auditor General also revealed that a total of sh276m from Uganda High Commission in Nairobi was not reflected as paid to the Consolidated Fund despite evidence of receipts.

The Auditor General also raised a red flag upon the decision by the Pretoria embassy to utilize sh996.5m from non-tax revenue to renovate the official residence and chancery in South Africa without getting authorization to do so.

The report also shows that $157,757 (sh567.9m) was retained by the High Commission in Dar es Salaam without getting authorization from the Ministry of Finance.

The mission in Ethiopia also reportedly irregularly retained sh600m was intended at buying land at Lebu.

The committee noted that all these scams and many others are happening in Uganda's embassies and the ministry has failed to bring them under control.

"From all these scams in our missions abroad, it is clear the Finance Ministry is not in charge of the management of public funds in those entities. We wonder whether there is no collusion between you Mr. Muhakanizi and the culprits," said Agago woman MP Franca Akello.

Defending himself, Muhakanizi attributed the financial mismanagement in missions abroad to the ambassadors who pressurize their accounting officers.

"Very few of our ambassadors are professional career diplomats. Most of them are political appointees. Some of them are even former ministers. Then you have a small man like Muhakanizi to handle them," he stated.

Kiboga East MP Dr. Kefa Kiwanuka wondered why the Finance Ministry does not have an early warning system through which it could detect that certain funds have not come in as expected.

Kasambya County MP Gaffa Mbwatekamwa said, "Missions told us that they have been writing to you to allow them use Non Tax Revenue and you have not been replying.  Why are you so arrogant that?"

Muhakanizi however defended himself, arguing he always replies and that to some of the missions a ‘no' reply means failure to reply.

Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga said, "Muhakanizi has not been serious in taking action. His letters have been generic in nature. These scams are incubated year after year. You appointed a husband and when he retired you replaced him with a wife and the mismanagement continued."

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