Parliament Halts Probe Into Trade Ministry Audit Report As Controversial Geraldine Ssali Protests Findings

Parliament Halts Probe Into Trade Ministry Audit Report As Controversial Geraldine Ssali Protests Findings

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By Spy Uganda

Kampala: Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was forced to pause its review of the Ministry of Trade’s December 2023 Auditor General report following accusations from Permanent Secretary Geraldine Ssali. Ssali alleged that the report was biased, particularly in claims that the Ministry had refused to provide documents regarding funds for cooperatives compensation.

The controversy began when PAC Chairperson Muwanga Kivumbi, also the Butambala County MP, accused the Ministry of undermining both the Committee and Parliament by questioning the authenticity of the Auditor General’s report. Kivumbi expressed concern about how the Committee could consider a report that the Ministry had already dismissed.

“I would be the last person to consider a response where an Accounting Officer is attempting to impeach the powers of the Committee and of Parliament on matters of approval,” said Kivumbi. He further questioned whether the Ministry had sought a legal opinion from the Attorney General regarding their concerns about the report.

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In her response, Ssali described the accusation of attempting to impeach Parliament’s powers as harsh and apologized for any misunderstanding. “It isn’t anything that we intended to impeach powers of Parliament in any way. If our submissions came out in any way to suggest that, we apologize for that,” she said.

Despite her apology, Kivumbi criticized Ssali for not seeking the Attorney General’s interpretation and instead relying on other legal opinions. He argued that this undermined the Committee’s ability to process the report effectively.

Ssali defended her actions, stating that she had reached out to the Attorney General twice regarding issues with cooperatives and disbursement of funds but received no response. She also contended that there was a miscommunication during the audit, as the requested records were provided.

“It wasn’t fair for the Auditor General to say that records of the cooperatives were missing,” said Ssali.

This incident is not the first time the Ministry of Trade has faced scrutiny from Parliament. In January 2024, the Trade Committee, led by Mwine Mpaka, refused to consider the Ministry’s budget until Ssali was relieved of her duties, citing numerous accountability concerns.

During the May 2024 meeting, Amuria District Woman Representative, Susan Amero opposed sending the Ministry of Trade back to correct their records, arguing that the Committee should proceed based on the Auditor General’s findings. Equally, Nandala Mafabi, the Budadiri West Constituency MP supported dismissing the Ministry’s responses, stating that the Permanent Secretary’s disagreement with the report indicated a lack of cooperation.

Muwanga ruled that if Ssali had issues with the report, she should have sought interpretation from the Attorney General. He criticized the Ministry for submitting financial statements via Excel instead of the approved system and highlighted a reported Shillings 3.5 billion diversion not reflected in the Ministry’s records.

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“There was a diversion of Shillings 3.5 billion reported by the Auditor General, but you can’t see it in the trial balance,” said Muwanga. He concluded that the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) would investigate the Ministry’s records to ensure authenticity and accountability.

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