President Museveni has been dragged into the corruption saga rocking the Office of the Prime Minister.
It was revealed yesterday that billions of shillings were diverted from the northern Uganda post-war recovery programme to pay for one of his unfulfilled re-election campaign promises. The Public Accounts Committee, which is investigatng the abuse of more than Shs50b meant for the programme heard that more than Shs6.2 billion was used to supplement the procurement of a ferry President Museveni had promised during his campaigns.
Sources from where the said ferry was supposed to be deployed, however, say that to date there is no proof it has ever been delivered.
The President is said to have made the pledge during past re-election campaigns in Teso Sub-region.
The PAC vice chairperson, Mr Paul Mwiru, criticised Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana, who was appearing in the committee for the second consecutive day, for diverting the money. Mr Mwiru said he was fulfilling a presidential pledge.
Mr Mwiru also pointed out to the OPM top official that the ferry had already been budgeted for under the Ministry of Works, not the OPM. “There was a political decision to have a ferry on Lake Kyoga and the political direction pushed it to start with Lake Bisina. If you want my answer on this issue, my response is that there was a political decision,” Mr Bigirimana said.
The PS did not tell the committee who ordered him to divert the money but MPs said they had information that PRDP money was diverted to the President Museveni’s pledge.
No evidence was presented to prove that this ferry was bought, raising fears that the money might have been spent on a ghost activity. Documents before PAC show that the OPM sent the money to Ministry of Works in May.
The MPs heard that the accountability documents from Works were not availed to the Auditor General for review. Another Shs1 billion was also withdrawn on claims that it was needed to transport the ferry. But Mr Bigirimana yesterday denied knowledge of this money. This was raised by Mr Shaban Wejula, the former principal internal auditor, who had detected the scam in OPM but was removed under unclear circumstances.
Mr Bigirimana apologised to the committee over another Shs150 million irregularly paid to Nakaseke District and another Shs207.9 million released to Akamba Ltd. However, details of these payments could not be established as cash books and vouchers were not availed for audit.
The committee also accused Mr Bigirimana of propagating the fraud at OPM because as far back as January 2011, he wrote a letter to the Accountant General asking him to release PRDP money in Bank of Uganda. “… the Accountant General failed to send the money to the Consolidated Fund and decided to release money to holding account. I want you to understand the problem was finance,” Mr Bigirimana said.
Yesterday, Mr Bigirimana threatened to stop answering questions from members after the committee lead counsel told him that by requesting funds from Finance, “you were either reckless, or you don’t know what you were doing or even fraudulent or both.”