Workers hack system, steal millions from Ntungamo Municipality

Ntungamo Municipal Council headquarters. PHOTO BY PEREZ RUMANZI

What you need to know:

The workers in the Finance department used fake identities to gain unauthorized access to passwords reserved for the accounting officer, heads of departments, and the Ministry of Finance.

At least two employees of Ntungamo Municipal Council have been interdicted for allegedly bypassing the financial system and stealing millions of shillings from various departments, including funds meant for salaries, pensions, and social services.

The workers in the Finance department used fake identities to gain unauthorized access to passwords reserved for the accounting officer, heads of departments, and the Ministry of Finance. This allowed them to pay themselves any amount at any time.

According to Ntungamo Municipal Town Clerk, Mr Isaiah Tumwesigye, the normal financing process involves voucher initiation from the finance department, approval by the head of the department, review by the chief finance officer, and final approval by the town clerk before the Ministry of Finance releases the funds. Each stage has alerts and unique passwords, making them difficult to breach.

However, the workers exploited a system glitch, using a password that bypassed these security measures. "We would find money missing and assume it was a shortfall from the Ministry of Finance, but the ministry would confirm that all funds were sent. It wasn't until an audit was conducted that we discovered the theft," Mr Tumwesigye explained.

The audit in June revealed that Shs32m had been stolen from the budget, and a comprehensive audit of the entire financial year is underway, with estimates suggesting that over Shs 200 million may have been lost.

The workers allegedly initiated payments, audited them, approved them, and cashed them from the Ministry of Finance without the town clerk's consent or knowledge of officials at the Ministry. The municipality reported the incident to the police, and the Accountant General has taken an interest in the case.

Mayor Jacob Kafureka called for a thorough investigation to ensure all those involved are held accountable. A civil servant, who spoke anonymously, reported missing salary payments despite receiving pay slips indicating payment. This followed her refusal to bribe a finance officer who had access to the payroll.

Ntungamo has in the past faced financial disparities, including the creation of non-existent Health Centre IVs.

Efforts to contact the Ministry of Finance were unsuccessful.