The Committee on Public Accounts – Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) has commenced inquiries into audit queries on the Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra), with virements and reallocation of employee costs.
First was on a reallocation of Shs58 billion as virements- the permission given to accounting officers under the Public Finance Management Act, subject to the approval by the Secretary to Treasury, to move money from one budget line to another.
UNRA Executive Director, Allen Kagina offered a response, saying the problem is the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) given to them by the Finance Ministry, based on which they sign contracts with contractors for the construction of roads, and later hit a snag with delayed or even no payments at all.
This, said Kagina, is responsible for the persistent indebtedness in which UNRA is entangled each financial year, and said the solution lies in putting a halt to new projects until current ones are completed.
“If all the money is not released, the debt will accrue; the solution is to either pay all the debt, which hasn’t been done or stop constructing new roads until we finish the ones we have started,” she said.
Yusuf Nsibambi (FDC, Mawokota South) had earlier placed the blame on UNRA officials, whom he said are not bold enough to reject the conceptualization of new projects before completing ones they have started.
“How much do you push [against the commencement of new projects] because I don’t see any fault on your part, but you are also playing politics; you create the impression that you are going to construct roads, you assemble equipment, you mobilize contractors, whereas not,” he said.
“If UNRA is having challenges, we want to see how we assist you to solve the challenges,” he said, in reference to the financing challenges.
MPs then moved to the query highlighted by the Auditor General, John Muwanga, as ‘diversion of funds for employee costs’.
The Auditor General said that, ‘the accounting officer reported to have spent Shs98.3 billion on employee costs. However, the review of the payments file indicated that out of the above amount, actual expenditure on salaries and related costs was Shs93.7 billion; the rest of the salary funds amounting to Shs4.6 billion were actually spent on settlement of civil works obligations’.
MPs have now tasked UNRA officials to present detailed accountability of the Shs4.6 billion and the list of projects to which it was diverted.
In the audit report, UNRA’s accounting officer had explained that the balance was occasioned by a botched recruitment plan, following a government directive to freeze hiring new staff due to planned restructuring and layoffs.