By Amos Tayebwa
There was drama at Mbarara District headquarters Kamukuzi as the District Public Accounts Committee and the Chief Administrative Officer had disagreements on the fate of the two District Health Department Officers.
Following the earlier decision taken by the DPAC, the District Health Officer Dr. Peter Ssebutinde and his subordinate the Accountant for the same department who is also the wife to Frederick Rugara, the District Deputy CAO were nearly facing arrest after unclear answers required by committee on query of 13m that were lacking accountability.
According to the audit report that was laid before DPAC it was discovered that the UGX 13 millions were requisitioned by the head of department the DHO and later released or paid but there was no any document like a receipt attached on to acknowledge the transactions or payments of the 13m that was paid to Mbarara General Referral Hospital.
During the two days District Public Accounts Committee meeting that was held at Kamukuzi District Headquarters, Dr. Ssebutinde who is the head of the Health Department was brought before the committee to answer the Query. He was grilled by the committee who openly said that his role was basically about requisitioning of the money but it was not his role to make a followup of the receipts because he is not the one who release the money, that it was the responsibility of his accountant to pick receipts from the receiver. He explained that the rest of the process like payments was all done by his Accountant.
After the explanation from Dr. Ssebutinde, Herbert Kamugisha, the Chairman of the Mbarara District Public Accounts Committee directed for the arrest of the Health Department Accountant who was not appearing before the committee. That the accountant is the right person held responsible to answer the query why it took her one year without accounting for this money. He therefore directed that the accountant should be taken to police and make a statement.
The directive from Kamugisha created bitter arguments in the house something that prompted the District CAO Edward Kasagara to intervene challenging the decision by to committee to arrest the Accountant that it is wrong. Kasagara’s argument was equally defending the Accountant’s fate instead accusing the DHO that he must held responsible for the query because he is the one who requisitions for any money put in his department, he asked the committee to decide against the DHO not his subordinate, the Accountant.
At this point, the two Bosses (the CAO and The Chairman PAC) couldn’t give damn on each other. There was fume developed between the two as the Chairman PAC told the CAO to go slow and focus on his roles because the committee is also coming for his. He told him that some officers including him (the CAO) have failed to do their work as Government civil servants. Kamugisha said that heads of department are not mandated to do payments, that in this case Accountants of departments are held response for any queries within the department.
“Bwana CAO I don’t want you to talk as a Layman, I want to tell you that in this case you have also failed to do your work, why do you defend people who are wrong? As far as I know every department here has the Accountant who is responsible for finances within the department, it is not the responsibility of the DHO or any other head of department to look for the receipts of certain payments. Me what I want is the Accountant to tell me how she could pay the government money and she fails to get the receipts after one year until the auditors came in, that’s why I insist that the Accountant must face police and make the statement and exonerate or pin her Boss the DHO. And by the way even You CAO who who authorises for some payments you also have to be blamed, why didn’t you ask for the receipts after paying for one year ? why should we first audit when you have not done your part? ” said Kamugisha.
“I must also challenge you as the committee that its not the responsibility of Accountant, this should be the queries of Dr. Ssebutinde as the person who requisitioned for the money and he must account for it not the Accountant. And this is the reasons why I brought him before this committee” said Kasagara, the CAO Mbarara District.
Later, the committee resolved to give the last warning to the accountants of the department and take note that they must stop playing around with Government money. According to Kamugisha, he said that once such issue happens again, in the next PAC meeting the police officer will be directed to arrest the person in charge of unaccounted government money including the CFOs who will also be held responsible.