Do You Include Black Label Whisky On Your Menus? Parliament Probes Masaka Hospital’s UGX 302 Million Expenditure On Special Meals

Do You Include Black Label Whisky On Your Menus? Parliament Probes Masaka Hospital’s UGX 302 Million Expenditure On Special Meals

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By Spy Uganda

Kampala: Members of Parliament on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have scrutinized officials from Masaka Regional Referral Hospital over the Shillings 302,087 million expenditure on special meals and entertainment. This expenditure, sourced from the hospital’s revenue, contravenes laws mandating all funds to be remitted to the consolidated fund.

A December 2023 report raised concerns when it revealed that while Masaka Hospital collected Non-Tax Revenue (NTR) amounting to Shillings 698 million, only UGX 400M was transferred to the Bank of Uganda’s consolidated fund. Shilling 51 million was reported as bank charges at DFCU Bank, and Shillings 302 million was spent on unforeseen emergencies outside the allocated non-wage funds.

During the PAC meeting on June 11, 2023, it was revealed that Masaka Hospital received Shillings 168 million for staff and casual labourer allowances but spent Shillings  328,345 million, exceeding the budget by Shillings 160,345 million. For welfare and entertainment, the hospital received Shillings 15,927 million but spent Shillings 34,261 million, overshooting Shillings 18,334 million.

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Additionally, special meals were allocated Shillings 103 million, but the actual expenditure was Shillings 124,634 million, an excess of Shillings  21,634 million. Medical supplies also saw an over-expenditure, with Shillings  94,841 million warranted but Shillings 124,726 million spent, creating an extra Shillings  29,885 million. The maintenance budget for machinery and equipment was exceeded by Shillings 5,479 with Shillings 17,229 million spent against a budget of Shillings 11,750 million.

Kalungu West Constituency MP Joseph Ssewungu questioned the nature of the special meals and drinks, expressing concern over potential frivolous spending.

“When you talk about special meals and drinks, what special meals are these? Do they include black label, whisky?.” Ssewungu said.

Dr. James Elima, the Director of Masaka Hospital, clarified that the special meals were for senior management meetings held weekly.

“These are managerial meetings for running the hospital,” he explained. However, Muwanga Kivumbi, the Butambala County MP emphasized the issue was not the meals themselves but the excess expenditure. “Special meals and drinks is accounting nomenclature.

The only challenge is, you spent more money than budgeted,” he said. Ben Nahabwe, the hospital’s accountant, defended the expenditures, asserting that all vouchers were available for audit and fully accounted for. Yet, MPs criticized the practice of spending money at source, which deviates from standard procedures where Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) collects all revenue.

Nahabwe admitted awareness of the requirement to remit NTR to the Bank of Uganda but cited emergencies as the reason for immediate expenditure at source.

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Dr. Elima announced that starting July 1, 2024, URA would take over revenue collection at all regional referral hospitals. Kivumbi, the Chairperson PAC, instructed Dr. Elima and Nahabwe to record statements with the Criminal Investigations Directorate for unauthorized expenditure. “You breached the law, taking over powers of appropriation,” he stated.

Dr. Elima projected an increase in hospital revenue with the installation of a new diagnostic centre, potentially reaching Shillings 1 billion. Additionally, the Auditor General raised concerns about payroll inconsistencies and payments to non-existent staff, highlighting the need for improved financial management.

The PAC continues to investigate these financial discrepancies, aiming to ensure accountability and proper use of public funds at Masaka Regional Referral Hospital.

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