The Public Accounts Committee (Local Governments) on Thursday directed Accounting Officers in West Nile Region to immediately take measures to recover funds spent but not supported by necessary documents.
The Committee chaired by Hon. Reagan Okumu (Ind., Aswa) also directed the Arua district Accounting Officer to immediately recover four motor cycles allocated to various staff but went missing in a period of one financial year.
The Yamaha motorcycles each valued at UShs14 million were given to the staff in different departments to facilitate service delivery. A review of Arua Municipal Council’s fixed assets and an audit verification carried out revealed that the motorcycles purchased in March 2015 were stolen outside council premises and beyond working hours.
The Committee, which camped in Arua 5 – 8 July 2018 summoned Accounting Officers from the Arua Audit Region to answer queries raised in the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ended 30th June 2017. Arua Audit Region includes Arua district, Arua Municipal Council, Maracha, Yumbe and Koboko districts, Koboko Municipality, Nebbi district and Nebbi Municipal Council. It also includes Zombo, Moyo and Adjumani districts.
Hon. Okumu doubted claims that the motorcycles had all been stolen in period of less than a year.
“This must be a syndicate by officers to steal these motorcycles,” said Okumu.
Arua neighbours the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan which are both safe heavens for stolen motorcycles and vehicles. The 2016 crime report released by the International Police (Interpol) Directorate in Kampala shows that 516 cars and 395 motorcycles were sneaked into DRC, as the go-to destination, by cross boarder criminals.
Arua Municipal Council Town Clerk Jamil Kairu, who is less than a year in the position, attributed the messed up accountabilities and wasteful expenditure to the former accounting officer.
He also admitted that some Municipal staff had opened a side and unauthorised bank account where they were depositing revenue collections.
“The under declaration of local revenue is due to a false collection bank account and over estimation of local revenue from markets, licences, taxi parks and land management dues,” said Kairu.
Meanwhile, districts in the region have registered low recovery of funds lent out to youths under the Youth Livelihood Project. West Nile district are faced with low recovery of youth livelihood funds, especially Arua and Koboko districts.
The Committee observed that the low recovery adversely impacts on government’s objective of setting up the program as a revolving fund.
Arua district Accounting Officer Ismael Onhengel admitted that recovery of funds under the Programme remains a challenge.
Whistleblowers however intimated to the Committee that some beneficiaries of the funds in West Nile Region were Congolese who crossed back to DRC through the porous border after receiving the money.
In Koboko district where UShs 179 billion was advanced to youths, less than half had been recovered by 30 June 2017. In the same district, it was reported that UShs10 million under the Universal Secondary Education was released to Koboko Modern Secondary School, which had been closed over land disputes with the neighbouring community.