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Top agriculture ministry officials grilled over Shs24bn subscription fees arrears

Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee has grilled Agriculture Ministry over Shs25,479,505,172Bn debt. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA– Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries were this morning grilled by MPs over the Shs25,479,505,172Bn debt in outstanding subscription fees to international organisations.

This was during a meeting between the Ministry of Agriculture as well as Legislators on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) while investigating queries raised in June 2017 audit report by the Auditor General.

John Muwanga, Auditor General noted in his 2016/2017 report that Uganda is a member of the Dessert Locust Control Organistion for East Africa an organization of countries in East Africa and the Horn of Africa which helps with pest and disease control.

And for a nation to be a member, this requires annual contribution from the member states, however, it was noted that the cumulative balance payable to Dessert Locust Control Organisation for East Africa totaled to USD4,955,770 by the time of audit.

Additionally, Uganda withdrew from the International Red Locust Control Organisation for the Central and Southern Africa in 2000, but at the time of withdrawal, Uganda had an outstanding amount of USD1,838,017.

This makes an outstanding of USD6,793,787 equivalent to Shs25,479,505,172 at current exchange from the two key locust control organization.

Pius Wakabi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture blamed the accumulated subscription on meager funds from the limited funds from the Treasury.

However, the same matter was raised by auditors when they pointed out that the Ministry had irregularly incurred arrears outside the approved estimates to a tune of Shs27,329,773,534 and these lacked documentation to back them up.

Wakabi still blamed the bulk of the arrears on Governments failure to allocate funds for international organizations and added the list of other global bodies like Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Permanent Secretary MAAIF, Mr. Pius Wakabi Kasajja blamed the accumulated subscription on meager funds from the limited funds from the Treasury. (FILE PHOTO)

Wakabi revealed that most of the fees required by FAO have been paid up leaving a debt of Shs64M m and disclosed that FAO has been instrumental in helping to combat the fall armyworm.

However, MPs led by PAC Chairperson Angelline Osegge tasked the Ministry to bring documentation of the breakdown of arrears, “It is interesting how international organizations are still interested in supporting us and you don’t seem interested in paying subscription fees.”

The Auditors also revealed that a recast of the pension payroll for the month of May revealed that for a very long time since the decentralization, 262 pensioners had been overpaid and 913 pensioners had been underpaid.

Computation of 11 months of the financial year revealed that Shs265,209,912 had been overpaid whereas Shs1,254,101,332 had been underpaid.

When asked about the matter, the Ministry had initially explained that these anomalies were due to clerical issues in the past where wrong calculations were applied to obtain the payable figure in the public service.

The Auditors warned that underpayments give rise to accumulation of arrears which are bound to be demanded by the affected pensioners thus delaying funding of critical service delivery output. Further, overpayments lead to loss of public funds since the entity may fail to recover from deceased pensioners.

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