IGG Probes Shs350m Scandal At Uganda Embassy In China
By John V Sserwaniko
The IGG Irene Mulyagonja last night confirmed in a phone call that she had received a whistle blower dossier whose allegations her office would soon begin investigating.
The whistle blower claims there is lots of infighting at the Embassy and predicts bloodshed if remedial steps aren’t taken.
In his 2 page dossier, the whistle blower asserts there is a lot of infighting especially between two officials Alex Bamya and Joseph Isingoma who are the sole signatories to the Embassy’s bank accounts.
They are both deployed by Ministry of Finance PS & Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi and they respectively serve as Finance Attaché and Accounting Officer.
The attaché Bamya does mostly the operational aspects of the cash office and the overall accounting officer Isingoma oversees everything.
The mission in total has 20 workers, 9 of whom are Ugandans. The whistle blower says the workers are sharply divided with some supporting Bamya and others Isingoma.
At some point Amb Charles Wagidosho tasked his Deputy Henry Mayiga to investigate some of the money-related wrangles between the two officers.
We rang Mayega who said he wasn’t authorized to discuss such confidential matters in the press.
But reliable sources revealed Mayega’s report indicted Bamya who the whistle blower says is favored by the Ambassador.
We rang Amb Wagidosho who denied this charge. He admitted there is conflict between Isingoma and Bamya, something he blamed on absence of clear distinction between their respective mandates.
He said the two often find their duties overlapping resulting into office conflicts.
“That issue is very complicated. We have been investigating how a Chinese national came to be in possession of forged visa books in Beijing.
One of the officers was confirmed to have forged it personally and gave it to this Chinese national.
I’m not allying with any of the two because none of them is my officer. They are assigned by the PSST [Muhakanizi] and the standing regulations are clear the accounting officer Isingoma is the overall person on finance matters,” Wagidoso explained.
Sources stressed there is duplication of roles between Isingoma and Bamya as there is hardly any separation regarding who does what.
The whistle blower claims the two offices have lately been involved in fights over colossal sums of money.
This, he says, could cripple work at this all important mission charged with attracting investments, tourism and market for Ugandan products. The biggest areas where money has been swindled, according to the whistle blower, concerns non tax revenues (NTRs) mostly collected from visa sales. The IGG is also investigating alleged fraudulent sale of Embassy car number plates to private Chinese citizens.
We separately established from the Auditor General John Muwanga’s latest report that in the FY 2015/16 alone, Shs350m was collected from visa sales (as NTRs) but the money is nowhere to be seen. Crisis meetings have been held but the concerned officials wouldn’t account for the money. This a few days ago prompted PSST Keith Muhakanizi and new Foreign Affairs Ministry PS Mugoya to agree on undertaking a forensic audit to establish what exactly has gone wrong at the Embassy.
The law requires such money is transferred to the consolidated fund. Wagidoso confirmed chairing Finance Committee meetings of the Embassy during which officials couldn’t account for the money.
There are numerous dubious withdraws and deposits of money on the embassy bank account, all of which Muhakanizi wants forensically audited.
We were unable to speak to Muhakanizi as he never answered our phone calls but sources close to him told us he had a few days ago acted by having Isingoma replaced by Rollar Kauga as new embassy accounting officer.
Isingoma is still in the embassy awaiting fresh deployment. The whistle blower shows that sometime back 250 visa stickers (worth $25,000) were stolen from accounting officer’s custody and ended up being sold on the Beijing open.
He adds that even Bamya isn’t without blemish and urges IGG to probe circumstances under which he left the Ugandan embassy in Paris where he previously worked as finance attaché.
The whistle blower further shows that Wagidoso subsequently tasked Mayega to investigate and the report implicated the two financial officials for the embassy.
The whistle blower wonders why Finance Ministry hasn’t swiftly reprimanded officials implicated in Mayega’s report.
The IGG is asked to investigate why the two officials charged with embassy finances want to kill each other over previous deals. The whistle blower says the feuds have negative implications for Uganda’s security and image as a competitive destination President Museveni has been working hard to market to Chinese leaders.
That unregulated access to Ugandan visas is prone to being exploited by terrorists once they learn of these loopholes in the system.
Gratefully, government remedially acted sometime back by decentralizing visa issuance in the case of the Chinese travelling to Uganda.
Visa acquisition on arrival enables such Chinese to pay and have it issued to them by immigration officials at the Airport.
There is also online visa acquisition procedure. All these have combined to reduce on the number of visitors seeking visa services at the Embassy in Beijing.
In a related development, we have seen a letter in which Muhakanizi grills Alex Bamya regarding accountability questions at his previous station in Paris where he served as Finance Attaché.
The letter is copied to foreign Affairs Ministry among others.