Kampala, Uganda | AFRICATEMBELEA | An audit report by the Auditor General John Muwanga has qualified the accounts of the Ministry of Health to several irregularities in expenditure of money mainly meant for the Covid-19 pandemic response.
A qualified opinion means a statement issued by an auditor accompanying an entity’s audited financial statements suggesting that the financial information provided by the entity is limited in scope or a material issue with regard to the application of generally accepted accounting principles.
Now according to Muwanga’s report for the financial year 2019/2020, the Ministry received a total of 184.3 billion in cash and donations in-kind to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic during the year under review but shortcomings were observed in the entity’s management of the response to coronavirus.
Uganda reported it’s first Covid-19 positive case a year ago and since then, the Ministry of Health has been at the forefront in the fight against the deadly virus.
Among the ministry’s shortcomings highlighted by the audit report in the fight against coronavirus was the delayed delivery of procured supplies and their non-certification by competent authorities, lack of space for expansion of Intensive Care Units – ICUs, inadequate staffing of ICUs, gaps in installation of sleeper tents and construction of border posts among others.
The other irregularities noted in the report accessed by Uganda Radio Network-URN include the delivery of procurements before approval of the procurement by the contracts committee or signing contracts, initiation of procurement without availability of funds, diversion of Covid-19 funds, unaccounted for or doubtful payments, delayed issue of appointment and deployment letters to engaged staff, payment of allowances to individuals without engagement records and failure to absorb funds.
The Auditor General also faulted the ministry for reporting outstanding domestic arrears totaling to 38.4 billion at the close of the financial year in June 2020, contrary to Section 21(2) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015, which limits accounting officers to avoid committing government beyond the availed resources.
“In addition, out of the domestic arrears amounting to 42.1 billion brought forward from the prior year, only 228 million was provided for settlement of these domestic arrears during the year under review,” says Muwanga. “The continued failure to settle such arrears exposes government to a risk of litigation and the attendant costs.”
According to the audit report, the 38.4 billion Shillings domestic arrears include money for National Drug Authority (NDA) totaling to 5.08 billion and National Medical Stores (NMS) totaling 2.9 billion.
“However, there was no reconciliation of the correct debt position between the ministry and the two entities giving rise to a discrepancy that shows that the ministry’s position is understated to the tune of 29.9 billion. Absence of reconciliation brings into question the accuracy of the stated payables position,” reveals the audit.
The new report further queries funds to the tune of 2.95 billion Shillings which were irregularly diverted from the activities for which they were budgeted and spent on other activities without seeking and obtaining the necessary approvals.
The Public Finance Management Act requires all accounting officers to seek prior approval from the Secretary to Treasury before diverting funds. The illegal/unauthorized diversion of funds negatively affects the delivery of services and negates the purpose of budgeting.
Further revealed in the report is another 4.5 billion Shillings received by the Ministry as off-budget financing which was not transferred to the Uganda Consolidated Fund- UCF as required by the law. Muwanga says that this was attributed to Development Partners’ preference to use their financial systems which do not require returning funds to the UCF at the close of every financial year.
Meanwhile, the audit of the Ministry’s financial position also noted that although the entity did not budget to collect Non-Tax Revenue (NTR) during the year under review, a total of 459.7 million was collected. Muwanga reports that failure to budget for collection of NTR could lead to understatement of revenue at reporting.
The ministry is also queried for remaining with an unspent balance of 7.6 billion Shillings and the Auditor General says that failure to obtain all the budgeted revenue and to utilize all the availed funds implies that some planned activities were not implemented which impacts on service delivery.
This Audit report presented to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday is pending further scrutiny by different Parliament Accountability Committees before resolutions are made.