By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Things are not food for officials of the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) after parliament discovered that hundreds of millions of roads funds are missing and unaccounted for.
The Finance Director of the Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA Brazza Kwesiga has Thursday been tasked by Parliament to explain the diversion of Shs60.5 billion meant for the compensation of Project Affected Persons (PAPs). The query was first cited by the Auditor General in his report for the year ending June 2017. According to the report, UNRA charged wrong expenditure codes to a tune of Shs60.5 billion, constituting 3.9 per cent of the total expenditure in the financial year 2016/2017. The matter is now being reviewed by Parliament’s committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE). While appearing before COSASE, Kwesiga acknowledged the mischarge as highlighted by the Auditor General. He explained that Shs59.1 billion was used to pay road contractors and Shs1.3 billion was spent on operational expenses. However, he contested the Auditor General’s findings when he said that the mischarge represented only 2 per cent of the total expenditure.
However, Katikamu North MP Abraham Byandala, COSASE Chairperson Mubarak Munyagwa and Jinja Municipality East MP Paul Mwiru accused Kwesiga of trivializing a matter which touches the core of their mandate as a parliament to appropriate. Committee members demanded that the finance director answers the queries on oath. Kwesiga further explained that Shs46 billion of the mischarged funds was moved from the budget for land acquisition and used to pay contractors who were charging interest to UNRA. He added that the budget was meant for Project Affected Persons (PAPs) along the Gulu-Acholi Bur road project, Gulu-Atiak road construction project and others.
Committee members accused UNRA of oppressing poor Ugandans affected by projects in favour of foreign contractors to the extent of diverting money appropriated for compensation. Koboko Woman MP Margaret Baba Diri wondered why UNRA would divert compensation money yet contractors are also budgeted for. The same sentiments were shared by Ngora County MP David Abala and COSASE Chairperson Mubarak Munyagwa who questioned the purpose of the budgeting process that ends up being ignored. Committee Vice-Chairperson Ibrahim Kasozi moved a motion that the Finance Director Brazza Kwesiga be handed over to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) for interrogation. However, other MPs objected to the suggestion saying that the matter was not yet out of hand to require the intervention of the Criminal Investigations Department. They insisted that UNRA gives them a satisfactory explanation about the expenditure. UNRA Executive Director Allen Kagina also owned up to the irregularity but pleaded with the committee for more time to avail a detailed response on the matter. UNRA officials are set to face the Committee again on Friday to discuss more audit queries raised by the auditor in the June 2017 report.