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MPs grill Agriculture Ministry over missing UGX10Bn

Agriculture permanent secretary Pius Wakabi Kasajja appearing before a Parliamentary Committee. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is probing the mysterious disappearance of UGX 10billion after it was revealed that although the amount that left the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) from the Ministry of Finance was UGX161billion only UGX151billion was deposited on the account of the Ministry of Agriculture, with the whereabouts of UGX10Billion remaining a mystery.

While looking at the 2017/2018 budget performance by the Ministry, MPs discovered that UGX 10Bn was recorded as unspent balance and missing since its accountability cannot be traced.

The legislators tasked Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Pius Wakabi, to explain why the institution didn’t raise an alarm when they realized that the Ministry sent less money than they claimed, with Ministry of Agriculture officials arguing that IFMS is undergoing upgrade and the matter was raised and being sorted out between Treasury and Ministry of Agriculture.

“You have to reconcile the figures and indicate at which account was the Shs10Bn was wrongly deposited so as it is collected and returned where it’s supposed to be. We want you to reconcile the Shs161.57Bn with Shs151Bn and Accountant General should show us where the money went to. If we don’t see the Shs10Bn in the systems, then it will be you and Accountant General to explain.” Said Nandala Mafabi, the PAC Chairperson while ordering the Ministry to sort out the issue.

The Ministry of Agriculture officials had appeared before PAC to respond to queries raised in the 2017/2018 auditor general report with MPs tasking the Ministry to produce the list of the Agriculture extension workers as part of the UGX 32.6Bn spent in the recruitment of 5000 extension worker.

According to the audit, the Ministry was meant to recruit 5000 extension workers to support the operation of district agriculture extension services to farmers but only 3377 extension workers were recruited. Yet still, there were no performance indicators developed for activities undertaken making it hard for auditors to assess the performance of the extension workers.

Mafabi demanded the Ministry to submit lists of the recruited extension workers in all districts to examine whether there was value for money allegedly spent on this recruitment and get to know if they exist as reported by the ministry of Agriculture.

A review of documents by Auditors also raised questions relating to ownership of land belonging to Bukalasa Agricultural College amounting to 299.9acres registered on April 28, 1933 but the College’s management did not possess any record relating to the property measuring 98acres with further examination of records indicating that the said land had purportedly been transferred to Bukalasa land office extension.

A further field verification conducted of the status of the land revealed that several plots had been carved out of the college land with some plots having been created without any formal authorization from the college and the Ministry.

The auditors warned that the lack of new titles exposes the college to a risk of further subdivision of its land without its knowledge and thus loss of land adding that inadequate land acreage hampers the college’s implementation of its mandate as it covers practical lessons and demonstrations that require adequate land for students.

Additionally, the Ministry of Agriculture is said to have acquired land for palm oil development in Buvuma and Kalangala districts under the Vegetable Oil Development Project as per the contract signed by BIDCO with the purchase costing UGX 52.9 for 7,723.7 hectares of land along Buvuma Island.

However, land measuring 5,857.3 hectares had no land titles with auditors warning that untitled land exposes such properties to high risk of disputes, loss and encroachment with eventual unnecessary litigations.

The Ministry explained that they acquire and transfer land in a phased manner and so far, 2,468 hectares of land had been transferred into the name of Uganda Land Commission and the balance of 4,150 hectares of land was undergoing subdivision before the transfer process is concluded.

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