The accounting officer of the defence ministry, Edith Buturo today failed to convince Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee over 35 billion Shillings domestic arrears acquired without requisite authority.
Domestic arrears refer to unpaid bills for goods and services rendered to a government entity, including wages and pension that remain outstanding at the closure of the financial year.
In his June 2018 audit report, Auditor General John Muwanga queried the under-budgeting for domestic arrears noting that during the financial year 2017/2018, a paltry 145.5 billion Shillings was provided for settlement of domestic arrears yet the domestic arrears brought forward from the prior year were 764.2 billion.
“I informed the accounting officer that failure to sufficiently budget for domestic arrears creates spending pressures on planned activities and hampers budget performance in the year given that outputs anticipated in the appropriated budget cannot be attained due to settlement of arrears,” reads part of the audit report.
Now a review of the Defence Ministry financial statements by PAC chairperson Nathan Nandala Mafabi revealed that the Ministry incurred 35 billion arrears during the financial year way above the provided 145.5 billion budget.
Nandala tasked the Accounting Officer Buturo to explain where she got authority to spend the 35 billion, also demanding details of the said arrears.
Buturo told PAC that the money was for mainly utilities especially electricity used in offices and defence installations.
“Electricity is a challenge, every year we receive 7.3 billion, a budget that is far below what we actually spend. The expenditure on electricity is 26 billion every year. For water, we have been spending within the provided allocation of 7.7 billion,” said Buturo noting that from day one of the financial year, they are in arrears due to meager funding.
Nandala told the Ministry’s Accounting Officer that her explanation was not good enough demanding that she provides that authority from the Secretary to Treasury allowing the Ministry to commit government to the tune of 35 billion.
But Buturo said that there was no explicit authority insisting that the Finance Ministry has been allocating them less money over the years.
Her response angered Maruzi County MP Maxwell Akora who alleged that the electricity is consumed unofficially in residences of officials and businesses. He demanded that a clear explanation is given on how the high expenditure on utilities is controlled.
Kalungu West MP Joseph Sewungu advised that the Ministry acquires pre-paid meters to reduce the high expenditure on utilities.
Buturo denied that their electricity is consumed by officers saying that the consumption is well managed and consumed officially. She said that they have an officer for logistics to specifically oversee the activity.
Ngabirano Kahiriita, the Under Secretary Logistics spoke of the efficiency measures undertaken by the ministry saying that they have a total of 117 institutional prepayment meter accounts of which 87 are already on prepaid while 30 remain on post-paid system due to budget. He said that to migrate from post to prepayment you must put money on the account and start consuming.
Nandala directed that the Ministry avails his committee with a schedule of the arrears incurred in the past years so that it informs the committee’s recommendation to Parliament on the matter.