PARLIAMENT. Accounting officers in at least 26 districts face arrest over failure to account for more than Shs46.8 billion worth of taxpayers’ money advanced to them in 2014/15 financial year. Saturday Monitor understands that the Parliament’s Local Governments Accounts Committee members led by their chairperson, Mr Reagan Okumu (Aswa), have written to police authorities in the affected districts to look for the suspects.
“Shs46 billion is not small money. We have written to police authorities to help get the culprits in this scam. Several chief administrative officers have failed to account for public funds. Procurement corruption remains a major problem in all the districts and municipalities and has bred corruption,” Mr Okumu said.
The affected accounting officers, according to Mr Okumu, are from Mbale, Lira, Gulu, Kiruhura and Moroto, among districts.
“All the above districts have shoddy works, uncompleted projects while several others are substandard and nobody seems to be bothered yet money was spent. Some roads have collapsed and funds cannot be accounted for,” Mr Okumu added.
In the case of Lira District, for instance, about Shs11b was lost in suspected embezzlement in the construction of Lira Municipality roads. On October 4, 2016, police arrested Lira District engineer David Bagenda and recorded a statement regarding abuse of office.
The Okumu committee has also resolved that the officials involved in the scam, including Lira District town clerk Christopher Kawesi, the chief finance officer and project managers; Fred Okune and Anthony Okucu as well as the contractor be charged with abuse of office and causing financial loss.
On December 21, 2016, the committee presented its report to Parliament detailing findings on Local Government queries for the 2014-2015 financial year. However, the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) boss, Ms Cissy Kagaba, and other anti-corruption activists faulted Parliament for failure to debate the accountability committee reports on the findings of Auditor General.
“Several reports of Parliament have always made recommendations but we rarely see the respective agencies coming into action. This is shameful and it’s killing the impetus to fight corruption,” Ms Kagaba said.
She added: “We want to see more action such as attachment of property and firing of corrupt officials. Unless this is done, investigations will always end at that and the same people will retain their offices and keep stealing public funds.”
In its report, the Okumu committee noted “gross embezzlement” of public funds by accounting officers in the districts as well as “conspiracy” between procurement officers and contractors.