By Ronald Nahabwe
Members of Parliament have criticised the Ministry of Water and Environment for returning Shs751 million to the Consolidated Fund after failing to recruit new staff.
The Public Accounts Committee members were left wondering how the ministry could fail to recruit when many Ugandans are jobless.
“How can you be given money to pay salaries, recruit new staff and you return it to Ministry of Finance when our people are on the streets due to unemployment. Are you serious?” MP Tonny Ayo asked.
The ministry officials led by the Permanent Secretary, Alfred Okot Okidi, had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee to answer queries raised by the Auditor General in a report to Parliament for the financial year ended June 2017.
MP Alex Byarugaba accused the ministry of failing Ugandans and keeping them unemployed. He wondered whether the Ministry had a recruitment plan.
“You failed us. Human resource capital should have been your priority. How could you return this money?” he asked.
Okidi, who apologized to the Committee, said the recruitment was not done within the financial year due to delays by Public Service Commission and as a result the money was automatically returned to the Consolidated Fund.
“The recruitment was both external and internal. As a ministry, we had no powers over the external recruitment since it’s done by the Public Service Commission. However, we did some recruitment later which increased our staff level from 4 per cent to 52 per cent,” he said.
The Committee however asked him to produce evidence that he tried to recruit the staff but was failed by the Public Service Commission.
The Committee also established that the ministry diverted about sh1 billion between 2017 and 2018 to activities that were not budgeted for.
According to the law, before any diversion of funds, the accounting officer must first seek authority from the Ministry of Finance.
Okidi apologized for diverting the money to other ministry activities but said it was due to budget cuts.
According to Okidi, the ministry had a budget cut of sh28 billion and yet had long term project commitment and could not ask contractors to stop.
“A total of 90 per cent of our budget is development. The projects are multiyear and you cannot tell a contractor to stop. We regret the mischarge but it was because of circumstances beyond our own