The Public Accounts committee of Parliament (PAC) on Monday grilled Dr Rose Nassali Lukwago the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education and Sports, over an unexplained mischarge of shs 3.4bn as reflected in the 2014-2015 report of the Auditor General.
First, Dr Nassali had failed to appear, leaving the committee to interface with Mr Alex Kakooza, the new Permanent Secretary.
The committee chaired by Soroti Woman MP Angeline Osegge stood its ground and suspended the sitting for 30 minutes, and also ordered its CIID personnel to hunt for Dr Nassali wherever she could be found.
On showing up, Dr Nassali disowned all responses furnished to the committee in regard to the findings of the report, instead offering to submit her “new” responses, causing criticism from members of parliament.
It was a tough moment for Dr Nassali as Gerald Karuhanga (Indep-Ntungamo Municipality), Mathias Mpuuga (DP-Masaka Municipality, Joseph Sewungu (DP-KAlungu West) and Ibrahim Semujju (FDC –Kiira Municipality) and Henry Musasizi (NRM-Rubaabo County) subjected her to different concerns.
Dr. Nassali was faulted for causing financial loss of taxpayers’ money after failing t defend the mischarges in a rather unfriendly probe led by Karuhanga, teh commity Vice Chair. See verbatim
Dr Nassali (enters and disowns responses which attracts criticism)
Sewungu: It does not sound good at all that Dr. Nassali is trying to disown these responses, then there is no need to have her sit here, because all responses Mr Kakooza has must have been inherited from Nassali.
Mpuuga: I must register my disappointed with Dr. Nassali both in attitude and response; I am quite uncomfortable having two responses and am wondering whether new answers are being found or somebody is trying to be a good cook.
Karuhanga: This report of the Ag was availed to you in Dec 2015 before u left in 2016. U are actually supposed to have acted on this report but for you to come here and give very naive responses is not going to be entertained.
Akello: For her to tell us that she doesn’t know completely what is in the report is trying to avoid taking responsibility which we cannot allow as a committee, we cannot waste time of obvious issues.
Musasizi: I get disappointed when somebody who was the accounting officer of the period under review comes here and tells us she doesn’t know what is in her own report…she has an option of disregarding the written responses but she cannot run away from the audit observations.
Osegge: This gives us an incite of the kind of accounting officer in this country, our focus I in the report of the AG, let’s see what they have to tell us…what we need is an explanation of why some decisions were taken.”
Karuhanga: The Query is actually on mischarges and Madam (Dr) Nassali if you can save the committee’s time, then we shall ably proceed. So tell us about the Ugx 3.4 bn, what happened why did you have all this mischarge?
Kakooza: MadamaChair if you can allow me to lead and she comes in
Karuhanga: No no no…you are not going to waste our time Mr Kakooza, it is actually the other way round…she is the one who spent this money, she ought even have acted on this report, she is aware…so Madam Nassali tell us
Nassali: I think we are on page two of this report…
Karuhanga: We are not keen on what page, we are simply following this report
Osegge: Just respond to the substance of the query, get what the query say and respond to it
Nassali: Yes, and am pointing you to page two if that is the report you have. On the issue of mush charge of Ugx 3.4bn, Ugx 1.76 was for expenditures that the ministry charged on the very item codes they were appropriate and for this figure, there was no mischarge.
Karuhanga: So you are trying to deny the mischarge of Ugx 1.76, let’s have the Auditor General
Dr Nassali: I am actually still reading….
Karuhanga: I know, the subsequent one is not about the Ugx 1,76, is it?
Nassali: I was still continuing to say the mischarge is Ugx 1.63bn and not the Ugx 3.4bn…and it is this we want to explain.
Karuhanga: No we want to start with the Ugx 1.76 you are denying
Osegge: You are saying the Ugx 1.76 is not a mischarge, where was it supposed to go and where did it go?
Karuhanga: Madam Chair, it is all written here and they are going to reiterate what is here, let us have the AG.
Osegge: How did this become a mischarge Auditor General, there must be something
AG: Since we have just received these responses, we need to time to reconcile such that we come out with a harmonized position
Karuhanga: No way, you wrote this report which says this was a mischarge and if they are denying it, I want to imagine you raised this in an exit meeting, is it the first time they are bringing it to your attention?
AG: Yes Hon Counsel…
Osegge: What were their responses in the management letter, what is it that they said, can the committee be privy to that information?
AG: Searches for responses hands copy to Chair….if you can allow me read verbatim…
Osegge: Let’s all listen to Auditor General…
AG: “Whereas it is true that gov’t appropriates funds according to the charter of accounts and MTEF codes sometimes funds aren’t released as budgeted thus warranting the accounting officer to use the available ltd funds to deliver outputs. In such instances, the relevant expenditure for an activity may have cross-cutting items in the charter of accounts when resources available are for only one item. For instance the funds for allowance may be used for training, workshops and contract staff salaries similarly funds on the non-residential building budget items can be used for monitoring and inspection of works.”
AG: So given that response, I think there are some crosscutting items…
Karuhanga: It is very simple (turns to PS), can you produce for us a schedules showing us what you charged and what you should have charged.
Kakooza: Madam Chair we have those schedules indicating the mischarges and what we fill was not a mischarge
Osegge: Where are they, we don’t have them here?
Kakooza: Let me handle that…(hands over documents and committee starts comparing notes)
Karuhanga: Are they the same ?
Musasizi: Madam Chair, the issue on table was the basis on qualification and I am constrained to ask our own (AG) if the officer comes to object the basis upon which you qualify the report, there are issues that come into my mind. Madam Chair we need to ask the AG to get back to the file and exactly attest that what they are objecting is correct because am finding it hard to believe that what the Accounting Officer (Nassali) is submitting is right because by the time you issue a qualified opinion, it implies that all efforts to issue a good report have failed and there must be clear evidence so I would like the Ag to satisfy us that what you are tabling is what happened.
Mpuuga: With your indulgence, I find it unacceptable we are subjecting our auditors to question when they made a report. This report was not made in absentia of the technical people from the ministry, I am constrained to find myself on this side discussing the way we are proceeding…I personally would not be party to this kind discuss. We need to be very sure of what we are discussing, are we discussing the first submission in which an admission was unequivocally made or we are discussing a changed position where new answers have been found? If that is the position we are taking, then it means the entity will have to be re-audited so that the auditors can furnish Parliament with a very velar audit position, otherwise we are submitting to our officers to a Q&A …we are actually turning them into witnesses.
Sekikuubo: Without the intervention of auditors, what was captured in the report is the basis for our interaction, let us proceed, this is what we are saying, you used wrong codes and caused a mischarge, can you respond to this query now?
Semujju: Madam Chair, when you hear her response, the problem remains and it is only the figure that she is revising that it is not Ugx 3.4 but rather Ugx 1.76, let us hear whether she is mandate to just move money around whether she is running a kiosk
Osegge: Actually colleagues the real query is about the act of mischarge it doesn’t matter how much, but let’s hear them.
Nassali: Madam Chair, on Ugx 1.76 Ugx which is considered as a mischarge but which we think is , we are here indicating that the auditor refers to departments or units that have all their entire budgets clamped on one item…
Osegge: Can you be specific, give us the specifics on the Ugx 1.76 that so much was for this but was spent on that…can you be specific?
Nassali: Can I ask my former accountant (Mr Sedric Mugume) to lead us on the specific schedules.
Mugume: The schedules we have given, schedule A is the one showing what we said were actually budgeted and appropriated on those budget lines…
Osegge: Colleagues I would think that from what we are gearing there is no difference answer or anything that is more satisfactory that we shall hear, the fact is that the first of all ignored the basic principle of budgeting according to the chart of accounts and so they thought they would hide mischarges in lumping money together.
Osegge: In going forward we encourage you to utilize the chart of accounts the way it is provided so that you can account for each item as indicated and even where you lump them you can identify the allocations.
Committee proceeds on second query.