PS Guwatudde on spot over alleged abuse of taxpayer’s money

By Moses Kyeyune.

Ms Christine Guwatudde, the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister could be sacked if Parliament adopts a report of the Public Accounts Committee, in which she is implicated for alleged abuse of tax payers’ money.

The committee wants the accounting officer relieved of her duties.

At the core of the MPs’ concerns is the manner in which OPM accumulated arrears to a tune of shs 1.566 billion as of December 31, 2017, and failure to implement budget as approved by Parliament.

“It was observed that an amount of shs 1.566 bn was irregularly incurred as domestic arrears outside the approved estimates appropriated by Parliament,” reads the report in part.

The lawmakers noted an “unsustainable trend” of increase in the arrears from shs 86.48 million in 2015 to shs 797.40 in 2016 and 1.566 bn in 2017.

During the year under review, PAC notes, the Office of the Prime Minister cleared the 2016 million debt using funds diverted from other activities “posing a risk of diversion of funds for settling the obligations.”

The auditor general, Mr John Muwanga, in his earlier report cautioned that such accumulations endanger service delivery while attracting costs on litigation.

“Accruing domestic arrears without clearing previous domestic arrears is a violation of the law and may lead to nugatory expenditure in form of litigation costs in case suppliers sue the OPM for delayed payments,” the report reads.

PAC notes in their report that MsGuwatudde failed to plan and manage the activities as indicated in the policy statement of the vote based on the annual cash flow plan issued by the Secretary to Treasury.

The MPs further faulted the Permanent Secretary for failure to obtain supplementary funding to pay for the arrears which had not been budgeted for.

For the year ended June 30, 2017, OPM received 130.487 billion and not 156.851 billion that had been budgeted.

A review of the Office of the Prime Minister’s expenditures according to PAC, revea1ed that the entity charged wrong expenditure codes to the tune of shs 467.849 million.

“Mischarges undermine the importance of the budgeting process as well as the intentions of the appropriating authority and lead to financial misreporting,” reads the report.

It is upon this observation that the Mps concluded, MsGuwatudde be relieved of her duties, on grounds that “a mischarge constitutes and offence” punishable by sacking under section 79 (1)(q) of the Public Finance management Act, 2015.

The committee further established that the OPM continues to operate without a National policy for Disaster preparedness and management since 2011.

They blamed this on “laxity by the Accounting Officer (MsGuwatudde) to have the policy document in place which may curtail the smooth operations of the disaster preparedness and management department mission to mitigate disasters affecting the country such as drought, floods, landslides, and crop and animal diseases.”

The committee has asked OPM to fast track the approval of the policy.