Auditor General Fails to Submit 2020 Report

Auditor General John Muwanga handing over the audit report for the year ended 31st December 2018 to Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.

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The Auditor General’s office is one month behind the schedule of submitting the much-awaited 2019/2020 financial year audit report to parliament. The report for the financial year ended June 30, 2020, was expected by  December 31, 2020.

Under the Constitution and the National Audit Act, the Office of the Auditor-General is required to audit all Public Accounts of Uganda and submit to Parliament an annual report of the Accounts audited. The public offices include the Courts, Central Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Local Government Administrations, Public Universities, Uganda Missions abroad and Corporations or other bodies established by an Act of Parliament.

The audit report provides an independent assurance on the use of public resources by revealing high-risk detailed findings or appropriate use of funds.

This accountability cycle ends in Parliament with the review of the Public Accounts and the Auditor General's Reports by the oversight accountability Committees including the Public Account Committee (PAC)- Central Government, Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) and the Local Government Accounts Committee. These make reports to Parliament with recommendations on which government acts upon.

Gloria Namugera, the Head of Communications at the Office of the Auditor-General says that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the entity’s activities and they could not finalize the audit process in time. She, however, says that they would be able to submit the report 'within a few days.'

This is the first time that the Auditor General is failing to deliver on his mandate as per the set timeline.

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Uganda Radio Network- URN learnt that some of the directors in the OAG had earlier been admitted in hospital with coronavirus disease something that affected the auditing process since the entity could not hold exit meetings and review accounts of different Ministries, Departments and Agencies which were equally hit by the pandemic.

Uganda registered its first coronavirus case in March 2020 prompting President Yoweri Museveni to place the country under lockdown as one of the measures to curb forestall the spread of COVID-19. During the lockdown, restrictions including the closure of education institutions, suspension of mass gathering and others were put in place. Several government institutions also downsized on their workforce and reduced their activities.

Helen Nanteza Kawesa, the Parliament Deputy Director of Communications and Public Relations confirmed that the Office of the Auditor General wrote to the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga informing her of their inability to submit the report on time due to the challenges of COVID-19 which affected the flow of work.

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Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the Chairperson of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC)said that any delayed accountability means crisis. “First of all, the Accounts were closed on June 30, the Accounts were given by Accountant General by August 30. So what takes so much not to complete the audit. They should have a better excuse than that,” said Nandala.

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He noted that those who are delaying the audit process could be having 'something to hide.'

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Judith Akello Franca, the Chairperson of Parliament’s Local Government Accounts Committee said that the Auditor General cannot be blamed for delayed submission of the audit report because every government entity including Parliament was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She, however, said that emphasis in the awaited report should be placed on the funds that different government ministries returned to the Treasury for failure to execute activities during the pandemic and where the money was directed to.

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Her Vice-Chairperson, Gilbert Olanya, said that the delay has probably given accounting officers time to look for ways of accounting for provided funds. He, however, hastened to add that any false accountabilities would be detected whenever the report is filed.

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Parliament approved a budget of 40.48 trillion Shillings for the financial year 2019/2020 which has now gone up due to several supplementary budgets approved by parliament to facilitate the COVID-19 response by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Trade and other government entities.