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Muhakanizi Grilled For Approving Reappointment Of ‘Corrupt’ Accounting Officers

Keith Muhakanizi, the Secretary to the Treasury, who doubles as the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development was Tuesday quizzed by Members of Parliament on why he recommended the reappointment of Central Government Accounting Officers he had earlier blacklisted over misuse of public funds.

Lawmakers on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Committee on Commissions and Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) had summoned Muhakanizi to explain his shift in positions.

This is after the two Committees failed to agree on eligibility of the Accounting Officers last week.

On March28, 2018, Muhakanizi wrote to Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige, naming 10 Central Government Accounting Officers that had failed to account for funds under their votes. However, a few months later, he says the Officers in question have since accounted for the funds.

In the earlier list that was tabled by the Ministry of Finance, 98 of the accounting officers were found to be ineligible for appointment, with only Nelson Kasigaire, the newly appointed officer for Chinese Embassy found to be eligible for appointment.

Section 11(2)(g) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 mandates the Secretary to the Treasury to appoint or designate Accounting Officers, but the same Act stipulates that any person who has not accounted for public resources or assets of a vote, according to the report of the Internal Auditor General or the Auditor General, shall not be appointed or designated an Accounting Officer.

Lawmakers led by Masaka Municipality, Mathias Mpuuga, who chaired the meeting tasked Muhakanizi to table a report showing that the said officers had since provided accountability for the funds.

“I don’t think he has the auditor general’s report that formed a basis for his change of opinion. The law says you are mandated to appoint accounting officers, except that you aren’t allowed to appoint any accounting officer indicted in the auditor general report for having failed to account for public funds. Do you have a report that those individuals had accounted for those funds and therefore, they qualify for re-appointment?” Mpuuga said.

In his response, Muhakanizi said: “I can go back and make a report but each individual will come and explain. We are ready to improve on the criteria used because this is the first time I am being asked about the criteria. That table you see, there are people who spent more money than the money they were given, so we wanted to understand how the individuals get the money that wasn’t appropriated by Parliament,” the Treasury boss replied.”

However, Mpuuga warned Muhakaniz against making blank allegations against the said officers without tabling evidence of the crimes they had committed.

“If the Secretary to the Treasury appoints these people erroneously, it doesn’t matter whether the ink on the appointing letter is very fresh, it doesn’t matter whether they held a house party for the reappointment, that appointment is void and you can recall it because you are obligated to stick to the unlawful decision, you rescind it and the person steps aside,” Mpugga said.

Muhakanizi asked for two weeks to table a report, but the MPs rejected his request arguing that business in the institutions has been put on hold because accounting officers have refused to pay for any goods and services until their reappointments are approved.

He was given one week to table a report indicating that the accused officers had accounted for the funds.

 

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