Govt carries out fresh payroll audit

Public Service minister Wilson Muruli Mukasa. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Unanticipated budgeting deficits this year have forced ministries to return to Parliament with unusual requests for approval of supplementaries to cover wages and salaries.

Government is carrying out a fresh payroll audit to determine the exact number of civil servants it employs, and to find out exactly how much it should be paying in salaries.
The audit being carried out by the Auditor General comes after many districts and government agencies reported wage shortfalls this financial year, forcing many workers to miss salaries for months.
It also comes after an earlier audit had revealed that billions of shillings have been lost in questionable salary payments.
Public Service minister Wilson Muruli Mukasa told the Monitor on Thursday last week that the audit will streamline planning for staffing and clarify the wage bill.
“Ministry of Finance has undertaken an audit of the payroll. The Auditor General is auditing the payroll. This exercise has commenced and they are scrutinising the payroll so that we get accurate figures of people on the payroll,” he said.
He added: “That will help government estimate and have an idea of how much money commitment can be made for salaries and other things. This will make government plan better so that these issues of salaries can be handled squarely.”
It is expected, the minister said, that the exercise should be completed before the financial year closes in June.
Unanticipated budgeting deficits this year have forced ministries to return to Parliament with unusual requests for approval of supplementaries to cover wages and salaries.
Mr Muruli said: “What prompted it (the supplementary request) is that when budgeting for salaries and wages, it was realised there was a shortfall in wages and we said we needed a supplementary budget which was not initially envisaged and which should not even happen in paying salaries.”
At the beginning of each budget year, every department should submit employee numbers alongside payment estimates.
However, the minister said it has come up in different submissions that some people were left out.
“We are doing this payroll audit so that we put a stop to this supplementary for salaries,” he said.
Government is meanwhile still juggling its accounts to accommodate a mid-stream fulfilment of a commitment President Museveni made to significantly enhance salaries for science teachers in the 2022/2023 fiscal period. Other selected science professionals and some military personnel also got pay rises in the same period.
Last year, thousands of government officials, particularly local government employees and teachers, went for months without pay, prompting industrial action.
Parliament had last week stayed debate on a supplementary budget request tendered in by the Local Government ministry for up to Shs401 billion to cover wage shortfalls. 
While the House Budget Committee had recommended approval of this request, Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa suspended the debate after legislators objected to the inordinate number of other supplementary requests being tabled.
There were requests for money to pay for government shares in Atiak Sugar Factory; for the construction of a convention centre at Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort and purchase of shares in Abubaker Technical Services, among others.
The Ministry of Defence had also already appeared before another House committee with a request to cover soldiers’ pay.
Both Mr Ramadhan Ggoobi, the Permanent Secretary in the Finance ministry/Secretary to the Treasury, and Auditor General John Muwanga, were unavailable for comment.
However, Mr Henry Musasizi, the State Minister for Finance (General Duties), confirmed the payroll audit was underway “and is progressing on well”.
“However, I cannot tell you when the report will be out and what we are looking for. Allow us do our work and when it is ready, we shall let people know what we have done,” he said.
Government this financial year set aside Shs6.4 trillion for salaries and wages. However, the money fell short after the unilateral pay increase for science workers.
Cabinet’s approval of the enhancement plunged public financial systems into chaos, with the finance ministry scrambling to re-adjust. It also prompted countrywide protests by non-science professionals, who accused government of taking unconstitutional and discriminatory actions in equitable pay principles.
Past pay scams
A forensic audit report by the Auditor General released earlier this year indicated that tax payers lost in excess of Shs80 billion in illegal or questionable payments to more than 28,000 district and other local government workers.
The salary forensic audit for the year ending June 2022, unearthed a catalogue of overpayments, underpayments and cases of illegal payroll access and deductions.
Also found was delayed removal of the dead from payrolls or cancellation of payments to ineligible persons. There were also anomalies relating to under-remittance, inaccurate computation of pension and gratuity, and non-deduction and under-deduction of Pay As You Earn taxes.
According to the report, in some cases, officials used wrong formulae to compute statutory deductions.
Payroll faults deprived thousands of public employees of rightful pay due to underpayments and use of wrong salary scales.
Payments using wrong salary scales led to an overpayment of Shs532 million to 1,264 staff in 26 local governments, while Shs2.3 billion was lost in overpayments.
The forensic audit revealed that workers and pensioners were cheated of up to Shs41.1 billion.
The record further showed gross payroll mismanagement in local governments despite interventions by the Ministry of Public Service.  For example, Shs1 billion was paid to 795 staff who had either retired, transferred, absconded or died.
An audit of payrolls of 129 local governments found that Shs19 billion was lost to payment of persons who accessed the payroll through forgery of appointment documents.
The Auditor General further found 609 secondary school and tertiary institution employees, under the Education Service Commission (ESC), who used forged minutes to access the government payroll.
The auditors reported an inability by local governments to validate eligibility of the posting instructions because they lacked an automated database at the ESC containing minute extracts for all high school teachers.
In 75 local governments, the Auditor General uncovered an overpayment of Shs3.8 billion to 2,085 employees and 270 pensioners.