AG unearths fraud in Lira payment system

Discovered. Auditor General John Muwanga. The Auditor General has found irregularities in the Integrated Financial Management System in Lira District. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • They included the district engineer, Mr Thomas Kodeos Okello, the acting Chief Finance Officer, Mr Alex Ongom, the district internal auditor, Mr Tommy Alfred Ongom and sector accountant works, Mr Henry Ajwang.

The Auditor General has unearthed irregularities in the government’s Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) in Lira District.

The Auditor General discovered that there was conspiracy between some district officials to irregularly access the system and command payments.
A review of the head of internal audit report on the special investigation into missing vouchers dated May 24, 2018 unearthed the budgeting and accounting system fraud syndicate.

The alleged evidence, which is now in the public domain, was released based on accountability issues in the Auditor General’s Report 2017/2018 Financial Year.
The report said the Lira accounts assistant allegedly made cash withdrawals amounting to Shs146.7m from various district imprest accounts for unknown activities.
The affected accounts include those of community, health, and production, all held at Kenya Commercial Bank.

In addition, the same officer allegedly made payments amounting to Shs72m and Shs88.3m to Rhino Oil Uganda Limited and Shell Lira Service Station, respectively.
The alleged payments were made in respect of various purported activities under the natural resources department, DDEG, Health, Uganda Road Fund, Production and Education.

The Auditor General further observed that all the transactions by the officer did not originate from the said departments, and consequently, no activities were implemented by the same departments.
In his response, the accounting officer explained that “the original tier 1 IFMS had short comings that the senior accounts assistant took advantage of to defraud the district”.

The system shortcomings were put to the attention of the Accountant General and the permanent secretary, Ministry of Local Government.
The Auditor General advised the accounting officer to follow up the matter and ensure that the officer is brought to book.

Also, Lira District reportedly made a deduction of Shs488m from staff salaries during the year under review. The district purported to have remitted the same to various financial institutions to offset staff loans in the respective institutions.
However, no evidence of acknowledgement of receipt of the said funds by the respective financial institutions was availed for audit.

Consequently, the Auditor General could not confirm the authenticity of the amounts deducted and whether the same was received by the various financial institutions.
Lira deputy accounting officer, Mr Denis Otim, told Daily Monitor that the issues captured in the Auditor General’s report had already been sorted out without offering any clarity.

“That is an old case. It was cleared when district leaders met in Gulu recently,” he said. Anti-corruption activists say the culture of corruption has deepened in Lira, Dokolo, Amolatar and Alebtong and has become widespread in Lango Sub-region.

At least, 13 people were arrested in March during an ongoing criminal investigation into the alleged misuse of funds earmarked for various development projects in Lango Sub-region.

In Dokolo District, for instance, four district officials were apprehended in connection with the alleged misuse of Shs705m meant for capital development projects.

They included the district engineer, Mr Thomas Kodeos Okello, the acting Chief Finance Officer, Mr Alex Ongom, the district internal auditor, Mr Tommy Alfred Ongom and sector accountant works, Mr Henry Ajwang.

Review

A review of the head of internal audit report on the special investigation into missing vouchers dated May 24, 2018 unearthed the budgeting and accounting system fraud syndicate.

Other incident

It was also alleged that Shs112.2m was fraudulently “warranted and spent” under health department without the knowledge of the Dokolo District health officer (DHO). Dr Samuel Ojok, the DHO, said he had alerted the accounting officer after noticing that there was a huge amount of money being spent under health. Such funds, Dr Ojok said, were not budgeted for “and therefore not approved in health department budget”.

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