The Public Accounts Committee – PAC Local Government has tasked the accounting officers of Masaka district to recover close to Shillings 200 million paid out in irregular salaries, gratuity and pensions. The questionable payments were effected in the 2020/21 financial year, according to the annual financial performance audit report by Auditor General John Muwanga.
For instance, the audit report indicates that the district effected pension and gratuity overpayments amounting to Shillings 16.9 million to 17 pensioners. In the same period, two staff were also paid above their pay grade, which cost the district Shillings 5.62million. The Auditor General also established that Shillings 82million was irregularly paid to 38 staff after clocking their mandatory retirement age and an extra Shillings 2.99 million was paid to 15 staff based on wrong salary scales.
The district also irregularly paid Shillings 2.07 million in four monthly installments to a dead civil servant, while Shillings 17 million was paid to six political leaders after the expiry of their term of office due to delayed deletion from the payroll register. An additional Shillings 85.2 million and Shillings 20.68 million was paid out in terms of pensions and staff salaries but off the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System-IPPS, an online government system through which payments are processed for easy inspection.
On the other hand, the Auditor General’s report also established that some staff in the district were also underpaid and yet the money was fully absorbed. Consequently, the PAC Local Government has instructed the recovery of the monies in question from the recipients due to the failure of the accounting officers to explain the payments to the satisfaction of the committee.
Nathan Lujumwa, the outgoing Masaka District Chief Administrative Officer, who was also the Accounting Officer in the period under review told the committee that the overpayments resulted from the delayed access and non-inclusion of some records and auto-deletion of retiring staff by the Ministry of Public Service. He explains that the queried anomalies were brought to the attention of the relevant ministries, which were expected to promptly act on them.
He told the committee that inconsistencies were not intentional, arguing that part of the money was also not actually paid out as indicated in the report. Despite the explanations, Martin Ojara Mapenduuzi, the Committee Chairperson insisted that all the money in the queried payments be recovered and a comprehensive report is produced and sent to the committee.
According to Mapenduzi, the audit report rises serious accountability questions that cannot simply be cleared based on verbal statements. He demanded that the Accounting Officer institutes a recovery process of all the lost funds, warning that the committee may be prompted to ask the Ministry of Public Service to revoke appointments on grounds of negligence and causing financial loss to the government should the accounting officers fail to act as directed.