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Kitgum District COVID-19 Taskforce Divided over Money

Kitgum District was allocated 407 million Shillings in July to facilitate the work of the taskforce and implement interventions for the control of Covid-19. The funding would cover expenses on case management, surveillance, communication and risk, among others.
Kitgum Chief Administrative Officer Martin Jacan Gwokto (L) stress a point as Kitgum RDC William Komakech (R)looks on during a heated Taskforce meeting on Thursday.

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The weekly COVID-19 Taskforce meeting in Kitgum Municipality became rowdy on Thursday as district financial officers and committee members clashed over delayed payments of allowances.

Kitgum District was allocated 407 million Shillings in July to facilitate the work of the taskforce and implement interventions for the control of Covid-19. The funding would cover expenses on case management, surveillance, communication and risk, among others.

The Bulk of the cash amounting to 257 million  Shillings was however to be wired to the Sub counties to facilitate the village Health Teams and Village Taskforce Teams. But nearly three months down the road, none of the committee members in the sub-county and the municipality have received payment.

But the Chief Finance Officer Alexander Otim said that some of the committee member’s requests for the facilitation had loopholes, which led to a delay in the release of funds. According to Otim, only the case management committee which consists of frontline health workers had successfully been validated for payment and the other committees including the surveillance, risk and communication needed thorough validation of their request before approval for payment.

“Payment has already been filed especially for district taskforce and case management and the rest are yet to be validated and approved for entry. Once the hard copy is thoroughly validated, your letter is recommended and is received by the CAO and approved for entry,” Says Otim.

He added that the case management team has been cleared and now being filed for payment while the rest of committees still need validation from the office of the Resident District Commissioner. The statement contradicted an earlier submission by  theChief Administrative Officer Martin Jacan Gwokto that payments had been approved and were “just waiting for a click of fingers.”

But Bezy Omoya, the head of the Risk and communication committee accused the Chief Finance Officer of failing to communicate the loopholes to the committee in time. Omoya says he was hearing about the issue pertaining to their requisition from the task force meeting and notes that the communication gap is expected to hamper facilitation to his members.

Equally, members of the surveillance committee accused the Chief Finance Officer of playing delaying tactics over payment which has been non-effective for the last three weeks.

The committee members who are tasked with tracing COVID-19 patients and their contacts say that  for nearly a month, the finance department has been introducing new guidelines on requisitions for the COVID-19 cash.

One of the members who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal says he has been tossed left and right over a request for payment to facilitate the surveillance team and that members of the team Are already demoralized over non-payment of allowances. 

The Chief Administrative Officer Martin Jacan Gwokto, however, says the delayed payment is due to the strict financial processes they have to follow to avoid audit queries. He also noted that the District financial system suffered an internet breakdown for a full week , making it impossible to forward payment requests to the Accountant General for final approval.

Gwokto promised that the committees whose requisition had been validated would start receiving payment.

//Cue in: “to get this…

Cue out…and control mechanisms.”//

Kitgum Resident District Commissioner William Komakech has however tasked the finance departments to Expedite the payment processes to motivate the team fighting covid-19 in the district.