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Fr Lokodo fails to account for funds ethics directorate spent to fight corruption

ACCOUNTABILITY | For officials heading Ethics and Integrity Directorate, one would expect accountability to hang around their sleeves, except that it is one thing to profess a creed and another to be what you are.

Fr Simon Lokodo and his team from the directorate could not go through the fiery accountability queries thrown at them during their appearance before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to account for funds they used to fight corruption on Thursday, with the meeting ending prematurely.

The meeting between PAC and officials of the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity ended prematurely after the team headed by Ethics minister Lokodo failed to account for funds they spent in two financial years.

PAC had summoned the directorate officials and Fr Lokodo seeking answers to queries raised in the June 2016 and June 2017 audit reports, but to the dismay of legislators on PAC, Lokodo and his team admitted to not having accountability for funds they spent to fight corruption.

AG queries

The Auditor General, in his report, queried, among others,  the maintenance costs incurred by the entity during the year that amounted to Shs323 million as compared to the prior year of Shs153 million.

AG John Muwanga noted in his report that the increase of Shs170 million (111% ) in expenditure in just one year was too big to be true.

Explaining the expenditure, Alex Okello, secretary to the directorate, told PAC that the money was used in repairing 17 vehicles for the 60 staff, half of whom are support staff.

However, Okello shocked PAC when asked to produce the breakdown of the expenditure; he admitted there was no documentations to back up the expenditure.

The directorate also advanced Shs165 million to personal accounts of staff to make onward payment for supplies, consultancies, workshops and seminars as well as allowances for field trips.

A scrutiny of these expenditures, however, discovered that there was no evidence to show that the allowances received on behalf of other staff were indeed passed on to them as no acknowledgements were provided for verification.

Tasked to explain this, Okello told PAC that although the ethics directorate can ascertain the number of participants invited for a workshop, there was no way for them to know the actual participants during the workshops in the Districts earlier since some of the invited participants delegate other officers to represent them in such workshops.

Rent bites

Fr Lokodo’s directorate spent Shs280 million on rent without a valid contract. Auditors argued that lack of valid contract implies that the drectorate does not know the extent of its obligations and whether the terms and conditions are being adhered to.

The Directorate apportioned the blame on Uganda Land Commission, saying the land agency had failed to enter an agreement since September 2013 despite constant reminders.

Okello’s response raised more queries from the MPs with PAC chairperson, Angeline Osegge tasking the directorate to explain the circumstances under which the rent was being paid.

“So you don’t have a tenancy agreement yet you’re paying money, on what basis?” Osegge asked.

Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpugga also demanded the directorate to avail Parliament with transmittal letters from the tenancy agreement.

It was observed that Shs200 million was spent on Janan Luwum National Day celebration during the period under review although this activity had not been budgeted for, with auditors warning that there is a risk that other budgeted activities were not implemented because of lack of funds for the activity.

With the ethics officials lacking clear explanations for one query after another, the committee chair, Osegge, was forced to adjourn the meeting, saying there appeared to be a futility in trying to find accountability from the officials.

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