Kampala, Uganda – In a recent hearing before a House committee, Nakasongola District leaders have come under scrutiny for their alleged collusion with officials from the finance ministry, resulting in inflated budgets and the subsequent return of funds to the Consolidated Fund.
Facing questions from the Public Accounts Committee-Local Government on August 24, 2023, the district officials were summoned to address concerns raised by the Auditor General’s report for the Financial Year 2021/2022.
The Auditor General’s findings revealed a troubling pattern: out of the Shs20 billion allocated budget, a sum of Shs114 million had been returned to the Consolidated Fund.
This financial anomaly raised eyebrows, prompting Hon. Betty Naluyima, the Shadow Minister of Local Government and also Wakiso District Woman Representative, to demand an explanation from Nakasongola’s representatives.
“Why,” inquired Naluyima, “are certain local governments returning money to the Consolidated Fund when the majority are grappling with financial constraints?”
In response, Nakasongola’s Principal Accountant, Edith Kirega, defended the surplus funds as excessive and inadvertently received. She presented an instance where the district initially sought Shs49 million but was allocated Shs89.4 million by the finance ministry.
Kirega clarified, “Our calculations pegged the requirement at Shs49 million, yet the Ministry of Finance dispatched an amount surpassing that figure.”
Seeking further clarification, Hon. Noah Mutebi (NRM, Nakasongola County) pressed Kirega on whether an inquiry had been raised upon identifying the surplus.
“Was any formal inquiry lodged once the excessive nature of the funds was recognized? And did you notify the Ministry of Finance about this inadvertent overallocation?” questioned Hon. Mutebi.
Kirega acknowledged that no such inquiry had been initiated, citing that the revelation of excess funds only occurred at the fiscal year’s close.
However, skepticism from committee members persisted. Hon. Ibanda Rwemulikya (Indp., Ntoroko County) questioned the district’s failure to promptly disclose the surplus allocation.
Rwemulikya remarked, “Your account appears incongruous. You accepted the excess funds in silence. It raises suspicions that this surplus was not a mistake but rather a tacit understanding for discretionary use.”
Adding to the criticism, Hon. Patrick Isingoma (Indp., Hoima East Division) placed responsibility on the finance ministry, emphasizing that the accurate and judicious release of funds lay squarely on their shoulders.
“The core issue pertains to the competence of the ministry, not the districts. What we need is clear evidence that these excess funds were indeed returned to the Consolidated Fund,” asserted Isingoma.
Committee chairperson, Hon. Gilbert Olanya, noted that the matter would be brought before the finance ministry for further deliberation. “If there is any collusion, its roots trace back to the finance ministry. Nevertheless, local governments ought to proactively engage with the finance ministry when confronted with surplus allocations,” conveyed Olanya.