It is sad if true that the shs 88bn pension funds channeled to Public Service Ministry to cater for National Social Security Fund contribution is still hel by NSSF as pensioners yawn for monies due to them before God calls them to Himself.
It is not clear how Keith Muhakanizi could have left that transaction to take place in the first place.
PENSION SCANDAL: Why Keith Muhakanizi Should Resign
By: Dickens H Okello
Parliament and Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development played a pivotal role in facilitating the infamous plunder of more than Shs 200bn meant for Uganda’s vulnerable pensioners.
The pension scandal figures recently rose from the already staggering Shs 165bn to a shocking Shs 263bn as other anomalies were unearthed by the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.
According to the Auditor General’s recent report, Shs 88bn was channelled to the Public Service Ministry to cater for National Social Security Fund contribution for ministry employees even when public servants are not supposed to contribute to the fund.
An additional Shs 15bn was paid to a non-existent law firm, Hall and Partners, allegedly on the directive of Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Gen. Kahinda Otafiire.
But the Minister has since denied the charge, saying he may have directed that court orders are honoured but not that “officials should eat the money.”
According to a recording before Parliament, officials from the Finance Ministry requested city lawyer Bob Kasango to give them a cut of 30 percent on the ill-gotten Shs15bn.
In early 2010, a team of Public Service ministry officials approached the Ministry of Finance with a smart and detailed requisition for Shs 44bn to be paid to NSSF as their employees’ contribution for financial year 2010/2012.
The Finance Ministry which is the custodian of all public finance policies and knows very well public servants do not contribute to NSSF didn’t detect the flaw but approved the request for the huge sum amount of money to be given to Public Service for the ghost exercise.
After approval by Finance, the request was then sent to Parliament charged with the sole responsibility of appropriating funds to ministries, departments and agencies.
Interestingly, Parliament, a body that makes and amends laws failed to detect the flaw before going ahead to appropriate the funds.
The Ministry of Finance again made the second mistake and released the Shs 44bn to the Public Service.
As if that was not enough, the same officials from the Ministry of Public Service returned in the next financial year of 2011/2012 and asked for the same amount of money that was equally approved and appropriated by Finance and Parliament respectively, hitting the Shs 88bn mark.
Five years later, on Monday during a PAC meeting, MPs and officials from Ministry of Finance faced each other and traded accusations on who aided the criminal transactions.
Muhakanizi under fire
The Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi who led the Finance officials admitted that both his ministry and Parliament made mistakes in the Shs 88bn fraud with the money ending up in the hands of fraudsters.
He, however, added that Parliament should carry the bigger blame since it failed to block the allocation.
“We both (Finance and Parliament) share the blame but Parliament as the appropriation body should have blocked the allocation of that money,” said Mr Muhakanizi who has made it a habit of apologizing to Parliament for several mistakes under his nose that have led to loss of colossal sums of money.
Observers say Muhakanizi should have resigned long ago, especially after it emerged that the Finance Ministry officials had colluded with Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Principal Accountant, Geoffrey Kazinda to plunder over Shs50bn of donor support funds.
Muhakanizi had at first attributed the theft to OPM but after being cornered by MPs, he simply said, “we are sorry, we are now plugging loopholes that thieves used to steal the money.”
Had Muhakanizi been serious, it is thought that perhaps over Shs80bn of taxpayers’ money would have been saved.
And that the matter is coming to light five years after the money was stolen, tells volumes about the incompetence at the Ministry of Finance under the technical leadership of Muhakanizi.
MPs also took their turn and attributed the loss to the Finance Ministry, accusing officials of failing to detect the anomaly and instead releasing the Shs 44bn twice.
MPs included the former Commissioner of Parliament, Dr. Emmanuel Dombo.
“The ministry of Finance should carry the blame because they presented the need for the money with their technocrats making us to take everything as the gospel truth,” charged Dr Dombo.
The committee chaired by the deputy chair, Paul Mwiru had other MPs like Theodore Ssekikuubo, Gerald Karuhanga among others.
Muhakanizi denied meeting lawyer Bob Kasango at Fairway Hotel in Kampala where the latter was asked to give Finance officials 30 percent of the Shs 15bn.
He vowed to resign if implicated by Kasango.