Kampala, Uganda | URN | Members of Parliament have questioned the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Geraldine Ssali on a virement worth 5 billion Shillings meant for renting of office space.
The MPs sitting on Parliament’s Trade Committee say that the virement is a violation of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Led by the Minister of State for Industry David Bahati and the Minister of State for Cooperatives Frederick Ngobi, the Permanent Secretary appeared before the Committee to present the Ministry’s Policy Statement for next financial year 2023/2024.
During the meeting, MPs learned that Parliament approved 5 billion in the financial year 2021/2022 supplementary budget for renting of office space but the Permanent Secretary together with the Secretary to the Treasury approved a virement to renovate the Ministry’s offices.
Mwine Mpaka, the Trade Committee Chairperson said that the virement was 100 per cent, yet the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) provides for only 10 per cent.
“In the Secretary to Treasury letter, it was a virement and refers to regulation 14 of PFMA regulations which does not relate to virement and yet the Permanent Secretary says it is not a virement. So even the PSST’s letter itself is contradictory,” said Mpaka.
Ssali said that the funds were re-purposed for renovation of offices to achieve sufficient premises for the Ministry since the office was not on a condemnation list.
“When I looked at the options of renting, especially for the premises that had been shortlisted, they were very expensive. It would have required me to pay 7 billion Shillings with all my Ministry’s Departments and Agencies. At the moment, I pay 334 million per annum,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary added that she did not violate the law in expending the funds since she got clearance from Ministry of Finance.
Mpaka then asked her to explain how the Ministry revised the decision from renting to renovation.
“The Trade Ministry sat and planned to shift and rent. Were you part of that planning meeting to shift or did you find something that was there that you thought was wrong and you decided to reverse it,” asked Mpaka.
In response, Ssali said that there was no documentation on plans to shift, and that she only found papers on her desk indicating the need to find fit-for purpose offices.
This prompted Mwine Mpaka to ask Ssali how the 5 billion was included in the supplementary budget.
Susan Amero, the Amuria Woman MP questioned why the Ministry requested for the budget to shift and caused a virement.
Ssali told the MPs that she was not in office during the time the budget request was made, which prompted the lawmakers to ask her to return with detailed responses.