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Police uncover new Shs5b pension scam in ministry

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A prison warder escorts former permanent secretary Ministry of Public Service Jimmy Lwamafa (L) and former principal accountant pension Christopher Obey (R) at the anti-corruption court in Kampala last year. Lwamafa and Obey were interdicted following massive fraud that was unearthed in Public Service Ministry. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Dear Jeanne

Posted  Saturday, April 5  2014 at  01:00

In Summary

Action taken. Police have since interrogated several senior ministry officials and are yet to question more in relation to the scam..

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Kampala.

Police detectives have unearthed another scam involving senior officials at the Ministry of Public Service in the latest investigations.
The investigations followed the Auditor General’s report of 2013 showing that Shs5 billion meant to facilitate workshops and allowances of public servants working in the hard-to-reach areas was swindled by top officials at the ministry.
The money had been approved in 2011/2012 financial year for implementation of activities in the remote areas of the country. It was entered on the Ministry’s account at Bank of Uganda but was later transferred to a personal account in Bank of Baroda. It was then withdrawn 17 times.

The Bank of Baroda Jinja Road branch account number 9502010003563 belongs to a junior staff Mr Charles Agondua, a cashier at the ministry.
Police have since interrogated Mr Agondua and senior officials who include Mr Steven Balisanyuka, the ministry’s principal accountant, Ms Cissy Mbabazi, an assistant commissioner for Wage Bills, Patrick Okello, the principal personnel officer, and Ms Gorretti Ssendiyona.

The Director of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID) Grace Akullo confirmed the interrogations.
“We have interrogated a number of officials in the Ministry of Public Service but investigations are still ongoing,” Ms Akullo said.
Hard-to-reach areas according to the Ministry of Public Service are places where public servants are reluctant to be posted to due to their remoteness or distance from the capital Kampala and lack of social amenities.

No accountability
Police say the ministry presented forged accountability for allowances and the alleged workshops to both the detectives and the Auditor General.
Detectives have recorded statements from the workshop attendants indicated in the Ministry’s accountability sheets.

However, police statements from many Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) of the hard-to-reach areas show that no workshop for the targeted public servants was organised between May 2011 and June 2012 when the money was spent.
In other statements, the purported participants listed as having attended the workshops said they had never seen any ministry of public service official and disowned the signatures used on the accountability sheets to verify their attendance.

Balisanyuka’s role
Although Mr Balisanyuka, the principal accountant who was recently ordered out of office by Public Service Minister Henry Kajura was posted to the ministry in 2013, his name has been cited in the fraud which took place a year before his arrival.

A source privy to the ongoing investigation told Saturday Monitor that police started suspecting Mr Balisanyuka after he failed to act on the Auditor General’s report handed to him over the fraud.

The police say he lied to the detectives that he had never seen the report.
However, the police say they have evidence including acknowledgement of receipt of the report by Mr Balisanyuka and yet he insisted he had never seen it.
Police say this is enough ground to cause suspicion of connivance in the fraud.
Another officer implicated in the scam is Mr Jimmy Lwamafa, the interdicted Permanent Secretary who is accused of failing to detect or stop the fraud and approving funds for no work.

History of rot in the Ministry
The Public Service Ministry was in 2012 investigated for alleged fraud and misappropriation of more than Shs250 billion pension money.
Police has since concluded investigations into Shs165 billion fraud of pensioners’ money lost between 2009 and 2012 and prosecuted six former Public Service officials.

Mr Lwamafa is on trial on charges of causing a financial loss of about Shs222 million, abuse of office and conspiracy to defraud Shs165 billion.
Mr Christopher Obey, the interdicted principal accountant for pension, is the lead suspect with five charges of abuse of office, causing a financial loss of about Shs222 million, conspiracy to defraud Shs165 billion, causing a financial loss of Shs165 billion and embezzlement of about Shs222 million, a charge he shares with Mr David Oloka, the then senior accountant for Pension.
However, police are still investigating an alleged theft of up to Shs106 billion of pension money.

Two files are still pending at CIID.
The files include alleged Shs88.2 billion of NSSF contribution where Mr Kunsa and his juniors Obey and Oloka are implicated and Shs15 billion compensation to 6,337 pensioners arising from a High Court judgment.
The money was being fraudulently paid to a law firm that did not represent the pensioners in court.

djeanne@ug.nationmedia.com