PARLAMENT: Legislators have recommended that accounting officers found to be in breach of the law be dismissed from service.
The hard-hitting recommendation follows debate on a report presented by the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (Local Government), Hon. Martin Ojara Mapenduzi on the Report of the Auditor General for the Financial Year 2021/2022.
The report that focused on 27 district local governments, three cities, four divisions and five municipal councils was presented during plenary chaired by Speaker Anita Among on Wednesday, 10 May 2023.
In its findings, the report pinned some district accounting officers on gross negligence and recommended that the Permanent Secretary / Secretary to the Treasury hold them personally liable and reprimand them for failing to perform their duties and causing the return of funds to the Consolidated Fund.
Hon. Joseph Ssewungu, the Kalungu West County MP said: “The idea that once an accounting officer is implicated, he is transferred to another work station is making these officers think that they are invincible.”
Adjumani District Woman Representative, Hon. Jesca Ababiku, proposed that apart from holding the accounting officers responsible, other line ministries should also be held liable. She gave an example of the Uganda Support to Municipal Infrastructure Development Programme where the lands ministry delayed in planning and delivering plans for the projects.
According to the report, 35 local government votes considered were warranted a total sum of Shs 1,278.2 billion equivalent to 21.3 per cent of the total warrants to the local governments’ budget during the financial year under review.
The above is exclusive of local revenues and out of that, only Shs 1,163.9 billion was expended, representing 91 per cent absorption of the budget released. This led to the return of Shs 114 billion to the Consolidated Fund as a result of failure to absorb the resources.
Parliament has consistently decried low budget absorption as one of the hindrances to service delivery in local governments with some MPs faulting the finance ministry for delaying to disburse funds on time.
According to the accountability committee report, the best five performing local gov’ts in terms of funds absorption are; Kisoro (99%), Rukungiri (98%), Bushenyi-Ishaka Municipality (97%), Ibanda (96%), Kamwenge (96%). On the other hand, the least performing local gov’ts are; Ntungamo (64%), Mbarara City (67%), Ntoroko (76%), Fort Portal City (77%) , Hoima City (77%) and Kabale Municipal Council (77%).
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Mathias Mpuuga, implored the House to carefully analyse the situation that local governments find themselves in, opining that one of the contributors to the problem is centralisation.
“We need to have a potted conversation as to whether de-centralisation is viable. We said we were taking services closer to the people but we instead took corruption,” he said.
“I want to invite this House to re-think the whole idea of devolution of powers. We need very serious reforms including through legislation,” he added.
He called upon MPs to become active on their district roads committees, emphasising that it is one of the best grounds to carry out oversight and prevent corruption by technical people.
The Aruu North County MP, Hon. Santa Okot, reminded the House that issues of returning money to the Consolidated Fund was not a recent matter and queried why the Government was not finding any solutions to the problems yet the Auditor General’s report always has the same recommendations.
Soroti City MP, Hon. Jonathan Ebwalu, informed the House that cities are still operating with municipality budgets and are borrowing equipment from the municipal as a result of underfunding.
The Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development (General Duties), Hon. Henry Musasizi, said that the money returned to the Consolidated Fund is spent on other priorities and cannot be ringfenced for the same previous appropriation.
Musasizi pledged to present a comprehensive report from the central and local governments on money returned.
Credit: Parliament of Uganda