The Public Accounts Committee – PAC has recommended the Auditor General conducts a forensic audit in the Shillings 53.5 billion distributed to vulnerable Ugandans as COVID-19 relief. This follows a joint report by the Central and Local Governments Committee on Public Accounts indicating mismanagement of the COVID-19 relief cash.
The Committee was tasked to verify the lists of the beneficiaries, ascertain their selection criteria, and establish how much they received. Medard Sseggona Lubega, the Committee Chairperson on Wednesday presented a report to Parliament indicating that during their investigations, they discovered several anomalies regarding the relief and made several recommendations for proper management of such relief in the future.
For instance, Shillings 2.854 billion out of the total COVID-19 emergency fund approved by the Ministry of Finance was spent on administrative costs while Shillings 50.6 billion was transferred to the Gender, Labour and Social Development Ministry account in Post Bank to facilitate transfers.
Lubega said that Post Bank informed them that at the time, the Bank had since received 488,272 total transaction instructions from the Gender Ministry and successfully processed 487,307 while Shillings 1.43 billion was lying on the account after the closure of the payments.
According to Lubega, Post Bank also informed the Committee of double payment of about 6,000 beneficiaries occasioned by glitches in the payment portal, which amounted to approximately Shillings 614,550 million. Only Shillings 380 million was recovered.
The Committee discovered that in Gulu City, over 10 Councillors including the Speaker and former Layibi Sub county LC III Chairperson registered and benefited from the fund whereas similar cases were registered in Arua City, Mbale City and Kitgum Municipality among others.
Furthermore, the Committee noted that while the Government provided Shillings 4 million to every Municipality and Division within Cities to facilitate the exercise, including but not limited to fuel costs and allowances for Data Clerks, some of the officials had not yet received their facilitation.
The Committee recommended that the Ministry holds accountable all Town Clerks who negated their roles and responsibilities during the exercise by delegating their functions without proper supervision as it amounted to neglect of duty.
On July 28, 2021, the Government launched the distribution of COVID-19 relief funds to selected groups including transport operators, slum dwellers, DJs, barmaids, restaurant workers, saloon operators, artists and boda-boda riders among others. The fund was to help alleviate the hardships they were facing following 42-days of lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
At the time, Robinah Nabanjja, the Prime Minister who launched the relief fund, noted that the money would be sent directly to the beneficiaries through their mobile money account and each individual would receive Shillings 100,00 via the Government-owned Post Bank Uganda. Now the Committee wants the Auditor General to carry out a forensic audit of the exercise and make appropriate recommendations.
While the Ministry of Gender should ensure that all officers who were fraudulently registered and received the money, refund it.
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