Saturday February 15 2014

Finance spends Shs1.5b on ‘ghost’ workshops

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Parliament- Ministry of Finance officials have been accused of spending Shs1.5 billion on ‘ghost’ workshops.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday accused the officials of forging signatures for the ‘workshops’ in what they called “organised crime”.

The Committee noted that the money “abused” by ministry officials under the guise of workshops and seminars could be in the range of Shs3 billion.

“We have rejected partial accountabilities because some receipts are suspicious. There could be forgeries,” PAC vice chairperson Paul Mwiru said.

“We have asked police to investigate this matter because without documents; we are not sure whether these workshops and seminars took place,” he added.

Given ultimatum
Without the accountability documents and work-plans to prove that there was no forgery, the Committee concluded that the money was misused by the officials.
They gave the accounting officer up to Monday to name the officers from the budget department who pocketed the money.

The Committee heard that although the officials planned for 130 guests for one of the workshops, the ministry officials paid 70 ushers, earning Shs100,000 per day.

For the same workshop, more than Shs9 million was spent on the buses and other vehicles from the ministry were also paid separately, while projectors cost more than Shs10 million.
The general observations noted from the accountabilities were inconsistent attachments.
For instance, for most of the workshop deals, the purpose as per the requisition, would differ from the attached payment details.
Workshop related activities lacked work-plans; there was no evidence of attendance by way of signed attendance registers and some lacked receipts and activity reports.
However, Ms Betty Kasimbazi, the ministry’s accounting officer, said: “We have the work plans but the audit came ahead of the accountability. They came later.”

The Committee dismissed the explanation, saying the documents were scrutinised by the auditors but they found glaring inconsistencies. She was appearing before the Committee for the second day to answer audit queries for the years 2011-2012.

“The query stands because they have failed to give the committee any reason why they failed to submit the accountability of Shs1.1 billion they spent on workshops and seminars,” Mr Mwiru said.
But Ms Kasimbazi explained: “I request for one day to reconcile the documents. It did not occur to me that there were these inconsistencies.”

She, however, could not explain to the committee why the documents were not availed to the auditors.
She said the work plans were available but she did not have copies.
The Committee rejected her explanation after it emerged that by the time of audit, she failed to produce the documents.

Ms Kasimbazi said she uses documents from user departments to approve the money for workshops.
She submitted a sample of receipts from various hotels but they were rejected since the Committee wanted full accountability of the money in question.