What you need to know:
- Local governments are on the spot for violating PDM guidelines and misappropriating funds.
- Sources close to this publication say at least five districts have been implicated in corruption.
More than Shs1.5 billion for Parish Development Model (PDM) implementation was blown up by different districts on workshops and other programmes not included in the implementation guidelines in the 2021/2022 Financial Year, Monitor has learnt.
Sources familiar with the inside dealings say when districts received the money, they diverted the funds to organise workshops, which had not been planned for. This forced the Ministry of Local Government and other government agencies to swing into action and arrest top district leaders.
The latest arrest happened in Apac District where the district statistician, Mr Monica Atim, was detained by police after she was implicated in embezzling Shs28.1 million meant for data collection. Sources on the ground say data collection officers accused Ms Atim of failing to pay them after they did the work in June.
At the Ministry of Local Government that coordinates the implementation of the PDM, sources close to this newspaper say at least five districts have been implicated in the corruption saga, while others are still being investigated.
“Yes, we got them and our records indicate that more than Shs1.5 billion was diverted in five districts and we are following others apart from Kitgum and Kabale,” a source said on condition of anonymity.
In Ngora District, police last Wednesday arrested the chief administrative officer and his technical officers for allegedly embezzling PDM programme funds.
Those arrested include the chief administrative officer, Mr Lawrence Wadada, the chief finance officer, Mr Charles Elungat, the district senior commercial officer, Mr Mackay Otai, and the district planner, Mr Asio Priscilla.
The officers are accused of stealing more than Shs200m meant for the PDM. Last week, the officers did not come to their offices, but upon return, they were all arrested.
The Resident District Commissioner for Ngora, Mr John Stephen Ekoom, who is also the head of security in the district, said the officers are currently being detained at Ngora Central Police Station.
Mr Mike Odongo, the chairperson of Ngora District, said about Shs800 million was sent for the PDM and each Sacco, among the 73 parishes, was to receive Shs17 million.
“But instead, Sacco’s were given Shs3.5m while others got Shs7m,” Mr Odongo added.
Mr Odongo said they would do whatever it takes to shape the behaviour of leaders.
“We want transparency in all sectors of government, we shall not allow corruption to eat into the resources meant for our people,” he said.
Mr Oscar Girigori Ageca, the Kyoga east police spokesperson, said: “Other officials [in Ngora] whose names have been concealed for security reasons are still at large pending arrest.”
Over two weeks ago, police in Kitgum and Kabale districts also arrested about 20 district officials for allegedly misappropriating more than Shs800 million meant for the parish revolving funds.
In the 2021/2022 Financial Year, the government budgeted Shs243 billion for PDM, but released Shs138 billion for implementation. Different districts started organising workshops yet it was not budgeted for.
Kitgum District received Shs745m, but a huge chunk amounting to Shs526m was swiftly misappropriated through dubious workshops. Kabale District officials were also implicated in swindling Shs289 million from the money meant for Saccos.
Inside source says when districts presented accountabilities for the last financial year, officials at the Local Government ministry detected anomalies within the implementation and sanctioned quick internal investigations that pointed to corruption and diversion of funds.
With the information at their fingertips, the officials stormed Kitgum and swiftly arrested the suspects while in the south, the deputy coordinator, Ms Kyomukama, travelled to Kabale and ordered the arrest of the officials.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government, Mr Ben Kumumanya, declined to name the other districts arguing that it would jeopardise investigations.
He said while the money was for revolving funds, district officials diverted the funds for other activities. He said those that misappropriate the funds will be forced to return the money.
“We had to move in to arrest these officials because they put the money to other uses. This money was for the Saccos and revolving fund, but not for workshops and, therefore, they have to be held liable for their actions. They will be forced to return that money. Kabale officials have already started returning the funds, so far, they have sent Shs120 million. As the ministry, we are committed to enforcing the relevant laws, which are adequate to deal with anybody who tampers with our mission of making sure that PDM money is directed to the right people,” Mr Kumumanya warned.
Mr Richard Rwabuhinga, the chairperson for Kabarole District and the president of Uganda Local Government Association, last week condemned corruption and said those responsible must be brought to book.
“As local government, we condemn the misuse of public funds, especially under the PDM because these funds are meant to improve service delivery,” he said.
Mr Rwabuhinga, however, faulted the central government for rushing to send money without giving clear guidelines on how to spend it.
“PDM has been characterised by a number of ambiguities and lack of clarity. You will realise that most of the accounting officers were not issued clear guidelines until recently when we were given the booklets showing the rule. At the time the money was being sent to district accounts, the booklet [for guidelines] was not yet out,” he explained.
He added that the funds were disbursed towards the end of the financial year and there was pressure on the districts to either spend the money or return it to the consolidated account.
“That money came towards the end of the financial year, so it took a strong leadership of a district to decide on how to use the funds for intended purposes. For example in my district, we received Shs420 million and this money had to be sent to the respective parish accounts. We have 52 parishes and we had to divide the money by 52 and each parish got about Shs9.2 million,” he added.
But Mr Kumumanya disputed the assertion and said the guidelines were issued alongside the funds.
“You cannot say the money came and there were no guidelines. If the money comes and there are no guidelines, you have to leave it. The one who sends it should be the one to give the guidelines. However, for this PDM money, the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury issued a circular to all local government accounting officers and guided on what to do with the money,” he said.
A number of government programmes have had to contend with the monster of corruption. Etandikwa, Bonabagagawale, Emyooga, Naads, Operation Wealth Creation, Poverty Alleviation Programme, and a number of other projects have all had less impact in the past due to corruption.
While Mr Kumumanya said the PDM will not follow the same paths, Mr Marlon Agaba, the executive director of Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, told this newspaper that government has learnt nothing from the previous interventions.
“The trend continues even to date in the implementation of the PDM,” he said.
Mr Agaba said PDM cannot be a clean entity in isolation when the majority of government departments are riddled with corruption.
“You cannot fight corruption in PDM without fighting the broader corruption at the government level. All the other sectors are corrupt and for you to end corruption in a PDM programme, you need to tackle the bigger corruption which is in every government ministry, department and agency,” he said.
“Those of us in the anti-corruption coalition are being threatened by such highly-connected people. By the time an agency fighting corruption moves in, such people are already made aware and they even threaten the agencies, whom they render toothless. So the government has to deal with such people from within its ranks, then fighting corruption will succeed,” he added.
What guidelines say
While a number of district officials and other stakeholders have complained that the funds were released without proper guidelines, the government says the funds were sent with a clear circular issued by the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Ramadhan Ggoobi.
According to the earlier guidelines issued by the Ministry of Local Government, all processes and transactions shall be computerised/digitalised using a dedicated PRF-ICT platform. This would make it easier to monitor the performance of the fund.
“As such, transfers shall be supported by digital financial technologies that are under formal regulation, in order to provide financial services in a secure, transparent and efficient manner, as well as to effectively monitor recovery. This is expected to increase accountability and reduce risk of loss of funds,” the guidelines state.
The guidelines further stipulate that the parish revolving fund is integrated within the existing structures of the government and states that the chief administrative
officers and the town clerks are the accounting officers for the parish revolving fund at the district and municipality levels respectively, while in the case of KCCA, the executive director is the accounting officer. It says the funds will be appropriated directly to implementing districts, cities, municipalities, and KCCA, earmarked for individual parishes and that the entities in turn sign financing agreements with each parish-based beneficiaries approved for funding. The staff will provide the necessary technical guidance and support to the beneficiaries in the course of implementation.
“The loans shall be appraised by the Parish Development Committee, the Sub-county Planning Committee and disbursement approved by the CAO/town clerks/ED-KCCA. Parish revolving fund will be channeled directly from the Treasury to beneficiary accounts that will be opened in regulated financial institutions to ensure that households in the parish are able to save, borrow and invest,” the guideline add.
Compiled by Franklin Draku, Simon Emwamu, Robert Muhereza & Obed Kankiriho