PAC Review of Trade Ministry Audit Stalls After PS Protests Findings

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Kampala, UG: In a heated session at Parliament yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was compelled to suspend its examination of the Ministry of Trade’s 2023 Auditor General report following allegations of bias and procedural breaches.

The controversy erupted when Permanent Secretary Geraldine Ssali accused the Auditor General’s report of bias, specifically regarding allegations that the Ministry withheld documents related to cooperative funds.

Chairing the proceedings, Muwanga Kivumbi, also Butambala County MP, chastised the Ministry for undermining Parliament’s authority by questioning the validity of the audit findings.

Kivumbi expressed dismay over the Ministry’s reluctance to accept the report and raised concerns about its cooperation with the Committee.

“I find it unacceptable that the Ministry would cast doubt on the authority of Parliament in this manner,” Kivumbi remarked, urging the Ministry to seek legal counsel from the Attorney General rather than relying on other legal opinions.

In response, Ssali apologized for any miscommunication that may have implied a challenge to Parliament’s authority but defended the Ministry’s actions, citing attempts to contact the Attorney General for clarification on audit discrepancies.

She disputed the Auditor General’s assertion of missing cooperative records, insisting that the requested documents had been provided.

The rift between the Ministry and Parliament dates back to earlier this year when the Trade Committee refused to deliberate on the Ministry’s budget until Ssali was replaced, citing concerns over transparency and accountability.

During the session, Susan Amero, Amuria District Woman Representative, opposed the Ministry’s request for additional time to correct their records, advocating for immediate action based on the Auditor General’s findings.

Meanwhile, Nandala Mafabi, Budadiri West Constituency MP, supported dismissing the Ministry’s responses, pointing to Ssali’s disagreement with the report as indicative of non-cooperation.

Muwanga Kivumbi underscored discrepancies highlighted in the Ministry’s financial submissions, including a reported diversion of Shillings 3.5 billion not reflected in their records.

He announced that the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) would investigate further to ensure accountability.

As tensions continue to escalate between the Ministry of Trade and Parliament, stakeholders await the outcome of the CID’s investigation and anticipate further developments in this unfolding controversy.

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