Money scandal pops up at Ethics Ministry

Sunday September 5 2010

By Chris Obore

Senior officials at the directorate of Ethics and Integrity spend public money without accountability, an audit brief has revealed. The officials, whose job is to champion of ethics and integrity in the country, stealthily banked office imprest into their personal accounts.

The officials also spent Shs672.8 million between April and June in marathon workshops to exhaust the budget before the end of last financial year on June 30.

The money was drawn from Bank of Uganda without approval from the accounting officer, documents reveal.
Dr James Nsaba Buturo, the Ethics and Integrity Minister whose docket is to supervise the directorate, yesterday confirmed there were accountability issues in his backyard.

“Those are serious issues; we brought in auditors from Finance Ministry but I haven’t got any feedback from Finance or my own people,” he said, “I would like to know what they have found out.”

The minister also said that the Inspector General of Government, Mr Raphael Baku, had been drafted in to investigate the financial malpractices. The documents, copies of which Sunday Monitor has obtained, also highlight possible fraud by the integrity officials especially in fuelling vehicles.

For instance, the officials present receipts indicating that they had fuelled vehicles but after scrutiny by the internal auditor, it was found that some of the petrol-consuming vehicles were deemed to have consumed diesel and diesel-consuming cars also used petrol. One such example is vehicle No. UG 1547C. This could mean that fuel was never bought and the accountability is made up. The officials also advance themselves money without following accounting procedures.


On abuse of office imprest [loose cash for daily operations], the document prepared by the senior internal auditor shows that: “The Principal Personnel Officer being one of the highest culprits as he had never accounted for any of his advances nor imprest, which is a violation of the Treasury Accounting Instruction (2003).”

The document addressed to the Secretary to the Treasury by auditor Sauba Mukaliyewujja also reveals that the directorate of integrity lacked semi-annual accounts because there was no improvement in the accounts department.

There are also management weaknesses like staff performing duties outside their dockets. The accounting officer, Mr Alex Okello, is accused of watching such mismanagement.

For instance, the deputy director of management information systems which falls under the department of ethics education, reportedly carries out duties of head of finance, a job meant for Principal Assistant Secretary.

A principal personnel officer also draws imprest and fuel for the whole directorate, a job meant for administrators. “The Senior Assistant Secretary signs on batches, which job should be done by the head of finance and administration,” reads the letter.

Apparently, Ms Mukaliyewujja wrote the letter in response to Mr Okello who had accused her of insubordination and wanted her transferred. Mr Okello had accused Ms Mukaliyewujja of gross misconduct.

But the auditor said the accusations of misconduct were tramped up charges meant to silence her from demanding accountability.
She wrote: “When I pointed out in my first quarter report that imprest had to be accounted for within one month, an imprest warrant sought from Accountant General, and the accounting officer had to decide on which budget lines imprest would be used…

“Imprest holders were got, and imprest started going to personal accounts. There is no evidence that an imprest warrant was got, neither did the Accounting Officer specify how imprest was to be used.”
The officials also diverted money meant for office tea with the directorate staff not having office tea from June to at least last week.

Sometimes sitting allowances are claimed in the names of people who left the directorate years ago. Apparently the Shs672.8 million spent on these workshops, had not been approved by the accounting officer.

Mr Okello could not be reached for comment yesterday as he was reportedly travelling abroad but a letter by him to Bank of Uganda reveals that the money was withdrawn without his signature.

“A number of payments made from the account during the months of April, May, and June 2010; are now a subject of investigation, because they have been made without authority of the Accounting Officer,” reads Mr Okello’s letter dated August30.

The revelations indict the directorate which was started to spearhead integrity and ethics and could raise debate on whether the officials there have the moral authority to talk about integrity.

And Dr Buturo agrees. “Clearly that is not only an embarrassment but breach of integrity,” he said.