By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: The director of Mbarara Regional Referral hospital is in deep trouble after failing to account for Shs733M, which spent by the hospital in the 2017/2018 financial year without approval from the Accountant General.
Dr. Celestine Barigye was Tuesday afternoon handed over to the Parliament Criminal Investigations Department (CID) together with the Mbarara Hospital Accountant Augustine Omongin and other officials by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) after failing to explain why the hospital management irregularly spent the money which they have since failed to account for. The officials had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee-PAC Central Government chaired by the Vice Chairperson Okin P.P Ojara, to respond to audit queries raised in the 2017/2018 financial year report by the Auditor General. According to Section 26 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) 2015, Accounting Officers are required to transfer all collected revenue to the Consolidated Fund and where there is need to spend the money at source, they are required to seek authorization from the Accountant General.
However, the Auditor General’s report indicates that Mbarara Hospital officials collected Shs1.03 billion as (Non Taxed Revenue) NTR but only remitted Shs306 .3 million to the Consolidated Fund and spent Shs733.6 million at source. The AG John Muwanga noted in his report that spending at source could lead to diversion of funds. The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) under Section 79 states that a person commits an offence if without lawful authority spends public funds. It provides a penalty on conviction of a fine not exceeding 500 currency points or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or both. When he was asked by PAC to explain the irregular spending of money without the required approval, Dr Barigye noted that the hospital had to ensure that emergencies were responded to at the time, especially the Rift Valley Fever and the Crimean Congo Fever which broke out with many cases, which were received and treated outside the budget. He also noted that there was need to pay contract staff their salaries and incentives for other staff involved in the generation of the revenue.
However, Barigye’s response triggered many questions from legislators. For instance Fredrick Angura, the Tororo South MP, tasked him to address his response to provisions under the law. But Barigye insisted that he couldn’t avoid addressing the emergencies at hand. Robert Kasule Sebunya, the Nansana Municipality MP and Sheema Woman MP Jacklet Rwabukurukuru Atuhaire questioned whether Mbarara Hospital wrote to the Accountant General or the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary regarding the expenditure, which Barigye failed to answer. Joseph Sewungu, the Kalungu West MP, pinned Barigye for usurping the powers of the Accountant General and warning that the committee was to recommend that he is not appointed an accounting officer again. After Barigye and his team failing to give a satisfactory explanation to PAC, Ojara ruled that he (Barigye) and his team be handed over to the Parliament CID to record statements on the matter and also provide information regarding the expenditure Shs733 million.