A recent investigation into the running of Ugandan local governments has unearthed several irregularities, including the payment of billions of Shillings in salaries to ghost employees.
Findings by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee on Local Government indicated glaring irregularities in the management of payrolls, over payment and under payment of salaries to government employees.
Conducted as a follow-up on the report of the Auditor General for FY2020-21, the local government’s investigation involved 12 district local governments and two municipal councils.
IRREGULARITIES IN PAYMENT OF SALARIES
According to the over 100-page report by the committee, whose chairperson is Bardege-Layibi MP Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, majority of the Accounting Officers (mostly Chief Administrative Officers – CAOs) admitted to authorizing salary under or overpayment to some employees under the service of their respective local governments.
“A case in point is Luweero District Local Government that made an over payment of Shs150m,” Local Government Committee boss Mapenduzi said.
The committee also discovered that some accounting officers had authorized payment of salaries to staff who had retired, transferred, absconded or died. The resultant was loss of billions in payment to ghosts.
It was not clear how much had been lost in such irregular payments of salaries to ghosts, over payments or under payments since the committee probe was limited to a handful of districts and municipal councils. But if the irregularities in the sampled local governments are anything to go by, then the monies lost could be in hundreds of billions.
In some of the districts, accounting officers told the committee that the payments made to retired or dead employees as well as in over payments were out of mistakes and assured MPs that this cash would be recovered. In cases of under payments, accounting officers promised to make rectifications.
State Minister for Local Government Victoria Businge Rusoke noted that there was some sort of connivance between public servants and local government officers.
“These officers over pay some officers and they go back to ask for it. In Fort Portal City, an acting treasurer has been paying some officers in excess of Shs50m throughout the year,” said Minister Businge.
On the issue of contracts, Minister Businge noted that some companies were handed several project contracts, leading to delays in implementation.
“We should make a parliamentary resolution about tendering of hybrid. I have a case I am handling of someone who was given a contract in Ntoroko, Bundibugyo, Bunyangabu and Karabole. How can this person handle all these projects?” she submitted.
Luuka South MP Stephen Kisa seemed to agree with Businge. “The issue of contracts is a serious problem; you find one contractor in a district is having several gov’t projects, which causes delays. Why should one contractor be given several projects in one Financial Year?” he asked.
It also emerged that some accounting officers had now made it a habit to pay contractors all the money at once, instead of releasing the funds to companies in phases.
“I discovered recently in Kiruhura that the Chief Administrative Officer paid a contractor in full, Shs1.7bn but unfortunately, the contractor died two weeks later in a motor accident,” she revealed, further expressing frustration with the slow process of interdiction of officers such as this Kiruhura District CAO.
The Mapenduzi Committee also found out that out of the total budget of Shs571.2bn that was appropriated for the 14 Local Governments reported on for the FY 2020/21, Shs468.3bn was released, representing 82 per cent.
Yet even this money was not fully utilized. According to the report, by close of the financial year, up to Shs423.20bn was spent, representing 74 per cent of the appropriated budget. This means that Shs38.3bn was unspent and, therefore, returned returned to the Consolidated Fund account.
On why the local governments failed to absorb the budget, the committee discovered that districts and municipal councils failed to recruit staff, there was a delay in the recruitment of teachers, and that there was also failure to procure contractors under USMID.
Members of Parliament raised more issues dogging service delivery in local governments.
“The revenue leakages at Local Governments is a clear demonstration of lack of effective internal control which is due to thin staffing of internal audit functions at the districts,” said Pakwach District MP Avur Pacuto.
“In Butaleja, from 2006 to date, we have never had a substantive secretary, District Service Commission. I recommend that we direct all LGs that are having officers who are acting to ensure that within six months they recruit substantive officers,” noted Bunyole East legislator Yusuf Mutembuli.
Alebtong district Woman RepresentativeDorcas Acen raised concerns about delayed access to the pension payroll. She submitted: “The retirees find themselves in situations where they have to travel to the Ministry of Public Service in Kampala and back to their villages for protracted periods before they can be added to the pension payroll; this must be handled at local government level.”
It should be remembered that President Museveni’s government continues to run a salary structure that has continued to annoy a number of employees due to the salary disparities among civil servants with the same qualifications. (See full salary structure showing how much each government employee earns every month this financial year HERE).