Saturday, 13 July 2013

Government officials taking fake allowances

Auditor General John Muwanga
                                  Auditor General John Muwanga 

Parliament-In what is shaping up as yet another financial scam, ministries and other government agencies are paying out more than Shs50 billion each year in fictitious allowances to civil servants and contracted staff under the guise of insufficient salaries.
A new report by the Auditor General found that a number of accounting officers, who are now facing accountability queries, continue to spend public funds on illegal allowances such as; consolidated allowances, weekend allowances, monthly allowances, seminar allowances and transcribing allowances to cater for extra income.
The auditors, who unearthed what has now become the “allowances scandal”, told the Saturday Monitor that secret expenditure lines were created in the government financial systems by accounting officers as a “window of siphoning public funds”.
However, the justification for this according to the accounting officers, is that the government employees are unable to sustain themselves using the monthly salaries.
“This is another case of abuse and I have asked the accounting officers to stop this practice,” the Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, said on Thursday.
Other sources at the Auditor General’s Office told this newspaper that the practice has been going on for years and billions of shillings meant to improve service delivery ended up in the pockets of civil servants.
The Auditors have now asked members of the Public Accounts Committee to interest them in what they called a “camouflaged scam” in public service.
For instance, last year alone, Mulago Hospital Complex paid out more than Shs3 billion; Ministry of Public Service paid Shs2.9 billion; Ministry of Health Shs1.1 billion and Ministry of Local Government Shs501.1 million in allowances.
It was also observed that Parliament paid Shs15.9 million as transcribing allowances. However, this allowance was neither specified in the Parliamentary Service Staff Regulations nor the Public Service Standing Orders.
“The practice is irregular,” Mr Muwanga said, adding that such payments were not provided for in the Public Service Standing Orders.
The Auditor General’s findings, which have gone unchallenged, suggest that even parliamentarians and House staff have exploited loopholes in the rules to claim billions of shillings in irregular allowances under the government programme that entitles public employees to claim specific allowances such as transport, medical, housing and disturbance.
Information Minister Rose Namayanja yesterday said the government’s policy is zero-tolerance to corruption and warned the accounting officers involved to rationalise the allowances.
In her response to the excuse the accounting officers gave that they were spending to supplement the meagre salaries, Ms Namayanja said: “The government position is that as the economy improves, we will be able to increase salaries for all civil servants. Our focus now is on roads, electricity, agriculture, health and education.”
Because of this malpractice, the Auditor General found out that a total of 29 entities incurred expenditures in excess of the approved budgetary provisions to the tune of Shs20.5 billion. He recommended strict enforcement of the Public Finance and Accountability Act.