Soroti town clerk, treasurer on the spot over corruption

A section of Soroti city. PHOTO/CORTESY/PPU. 

Councillors in Soroti City West Division have accused the acting Town Clerk, Ms Regina Akello, and Treasurer, Ms Stella Aarakit, of corruption.

During a heated council meeting at the division offices last week, the councillors resolved that the duo step down from their positions.

“By the powers entrusted upon me, the acting division Town Clerk, Ms Regina Akello, and the Treasurer, Ms Stella Aarakit shall step aside and stay out of the office,” Mr Daniel Okello, the division council speaker, said. 

The two officials are accused of spending Discretionary Development Equalisation Grant (DDEG) funds worth Shs130m for Financial Year 2021/2022 without the consent of the executive and council.

The city division deputy mayor, Mr Joseph Ochen, said the money was meant to implement five projects, which include setting up a pig slaughter slab (which would cost Shs20m), completion of the division health centre III staff house (Shs20m), and buying furniture (Shs3.6m). 

Others are construction of a four-stance water-borne toilet at the division headquarters (Shs20m) and the procurement of three motorcycles (Shs30m). The rest of the money was meant for monitoring.
Mr Ocen said despite the availability of funds, the projects have stalled and the money was spent unscrupulously.

He added that a special audit carried out by the internal auditor on the orders of the resident city commissioner (RCC) shows that part of the money was sent in instalments to the Soroti City central interest bank account and some money was sent to the treasurer’s bank account.

When he received the audit report, the Soroti RCC, Mr Peter Pex Paak, gave Ms Akello an ultimatum of 30 days (which ended on October 30) to refund the money but it has yet to be paid back.

In her defence, Ms Akello said the money was borrowed by the city authorities and asked the councillors to talk to them to find out how the money was spent.

However, the deputy city mayor, Ms Juliet Ipagi, refuted the allegations, saying records from the finance department show that only Shs11m was borrowed and later refunded.

“We do not have any pending debt with the division. What I know is that when this rumour came, I called our CFO (chief finance officer), who explained with recorded evidence that they had earlier borrowed Shs11m for implementing city activities but it was refunded,” Ms Ipagi said.

She asked the division town clerk to explain how the money was spent.
“Such things retard our development. By law you are supposed to work in consultation with the executive and council. How you spent the money without the consent of the two supervising and decision-making organs is questionable,” Ms Ipagi said.

Mr Isaac Asaku, the Soroti West City Division councillor, said no council meeting at the level has ever been organised to discuss borrowing money from the division.

Ms Akello asked the councillors to give her more time to recover the money but the councillors rejected the request.