PAC chairman, Kassiano Wadri
Three days after President Museveni threatened to sack all National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) district coordinators, the organisation’s secretariat wrestled with tough questions in Parliament on their failure to account for Shs 7.1bn, during the 2010/2011 financial year.
The failure was one of the main highlights of the auditor general’s report now under scrutiny by the House Public Accounts committee (PAC).
The Naads executive director, Dr Samuel Mugasi, led a team of dozens of management, accounting officers and senior district technical officials from implementing districts to Parliament’s conference room on Tuesday.
The five-hour meeting was so big that instead of several rounds of refreshments, the Naads delegation was restricted to one bottle of mineral water each. On the other hand, the 18 PAC MPs had their usual refreshments, consisting of several flasks of tea, mineral water and soda.
The auditor general’s report pointed at irregularities by both the secretariat and district coordinators. The most affected districts included Kotido, Amuriat, Kaabong and Zombo, which did not submit accountability during the auditing exercise.
After three hours of incessant questioning, several district coordinators could only offer apologies to the MPs when asked to explain the anomalies. This angered the MPs, who ordered them out of the meeting. Committee chair Kassiano Wadri then ordered Dr Mugasi and his secretariat to study the losses and return with an explanation later.
The Naads secretariat was retained in the meeting to explain further losses. These included over Shs 1.8bn, supposedly used to procure milk coolers through Alakaituk Enterprises.
“On 4th December 2010, Naads, on behalf of Government of Uganda entered into an agreement with Alakaituk enterprises to supply 20 [coolers] of 5,000-litre capacity complete with appropriate matching power generators at the cost of Shs 92,000,000 each making it a total cost of Shs 1,840,000,000,” the AG’s report says.
The coolers were supposed to be delivered by December 14, 2010 but by the time of the audit, in February 2012, no milk coolers had been supplied. The AG also revealed that the contractor failed to explain his failure to the auditors.
Asked why this was so, Mugasi said the secretariat would improve its performance after the recruitment of regional accountants and additional staff in the finance department, a matter that infuriated the MPs further. The secretariat was also taken to task for failing to recover Shs 3.5bn as balances from various districts and missing payment vouchers in form of Pay As You Earn (PAYE) worth over Shs 40m in July 2010.
The Naads explanation that there had been a mix-up in accounts filing left MPs suspicious.
“This is unbelievable that Shs 40m were paid out without the accounting officer appending the signature on these payments and we want to know; who took your powers at the Naads secretariat for this oversight that you are telling us?” Wadri asked.
Rehema Omara, the finance officer at the Naads secretariat, offered an explanation.
“I as the financial officer … was supposed to have signed together with the accounting officer [Executive Director] but I don’t know whether we both signed.”
The auditor general reports of 2011-2012 cited an activity which lacked sufficient documentation on procurement, which saw Naads pay Shs 6.1m to MPs on PAC as facilitation in cash, by one Dr Anthony Mugenyi, on September 21, 2011. However, the matter drew anger from the MPs, with Theodore Ssekikubo asking who the money had been handed to.
“Was it an allowance for you officials coming to PAC or for PAC members?” asked Ssekikubo. However, before an answer could be offered, Wadri intervened.
“We want Dr Mugenyi to tell us who he gave this money because this is blackmail…if there is any member of PAC whom you gave money, you should reveal him or her now!!” an angry Wadri asked, as he looked around for a police officer, attached to the committee.
Dr Mugenyi was not in the committee room. So Wadri ordered police to ensure his transportation from upcountry, where he had gone on duty, to Kampala to face PAC over the matter.
“We are not going to leave this issue … if it means sleeping here, we shall,” Wadri added, with a stern stare at the Naads secretariat team.