SFG soldiers named in Shs590m theft - report

Saturday August 17 2013

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Parliament- A new report of the Auditor General has established that soldiers of the Special Forces Group (SFG), the elite presidential guard unit, could have participated in the theft of State House cash amounting to Shs590 million.

When the Daily Monitor first broke the story in September 2011, the then SFG spokesperson, Capt. Edson Kwesiga, denied the involvement of the soldiers.
However, the latest AG report to Parliament confirms that the soldiers took the money and directed that they return it.

Quoting the explanation from State House Comptroller, Ms Lucy Nakyobe, the Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, states that he learnt the Accountant General was informed of the theft and that the issue was handled according to military procedures since the people involved in the theft were serving officers.
Details from State House revealed that Shs590.2 million was reported stolen from the cash office by soldiers.

However, the AG has told Public Accounts Committee that no police report was availed to the auditors to confirm the said amount. He added that the information about the fraud was scanty.

“This figure has been reflected in the financial accounts as a Receivable [and should be investigated with the view of recovering the money],” Mr Muwanga said.

When this newspaper first reported this incident two years ago, sources close to State House estimated the stolen cash between Shs8 billion and Shs17 billion.

However, Capt Kwesiga put the figure at only Shs20 million while Presidential Spokesperson Tamale Mirundi later said it was Shs2 million.

“The figures are conflicting, but we are going to investigate this matter and the truth will come out,” the Public Accounts Committee Chairman, Mr Kassiano Wadri told Saturday Monitor on Thursday.

He said State House officials, including the soldiers implicated in the scam will be summoned to testify before the committee.

Further details from the AG report show that an additional Shs3 billion meant for service delivery remains unaccounted for in the latest wave of growing cash scandals reported in the cash offices for various ministries and government agencies.
The AG noted that theft of cash has worsened. Mr Muwanga wants cash losses investigated to prosecute the culprits and has advised the government to introduce credit cards to curtail the losses.

For instance, officials at the Ministry of Works lost about Shs930m under unexplained circumstances.

The Saturday Monitor understands the World Bank recently audited the road projects it finances and established that more than Shs27 million had been stolen and an additional Shs78 million was spent on ‘fraudulent’ activities.

However, the AG in his report noted that there were no details regarding the steps taken to have the stolen funds recovered from the culprits.

The ministry’s Accounting Officer at that time, Mr Charles Muganzi, said the loss was caused by an employee whom he said advanced the money in question, but absconded from duty after receiving it.

He said the officer was arrested and charged although recovery of the funds has not been possible.

During the audit year, losses relating to cash and stores in various ministries and government departments shot from Shs2.7 billion as at June 30, 2011 to Shs3.5 billion by June 30, 2012.

Mr Muwanga said the Uganda National Roads Authority(UNRA) and other agencies where cash theft was reported do not have a strong internal controls of tying bank accounts to the suppliers.
UNRA officials said the staff, who had been assigned to manage invoice processing, abused his position and used genuine invoices but re-directed the payment to the fraudulent bank account.

By the time this theft was detected, the money had been partially withdrawn by the staff with the aid of bank staff. The staff was arrested and the matter is still under investigation by the Police. The Auditor General has advised the management to pursue the case to recover the money.

Top culprits

EC Shs898m
Works Shs932.7m
State House Shs590m
Police Shs175.7m
UNRA Shs173.7m
Rome Embassy Shs23m
Kyambogo Shs10.4m
Defence Shs91.7m
Internal Affairs Shs84.7m
Min of Water Shs78m
Min of Gender Shs75m
NARO Shs193m