By Max Patrico Ocaido
Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija could be forced to resign next week if Parliament finds him guilty over misappropriation of $200m (about Shs720bn) loan that was meant for National Medical Stores (NMS) to procure medical supplies.
This is contained in a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report titled “The Acquisition and Utilization of the USD 200m loan from the Eastern and Southern African trade and Development Bank(PTA)” that was on Wednesday presented by the committee chair Angelline Ossegge (Soroti Woman MP).
Last year, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga ordered PAC to carry out an investigation into the acquisition and utilization of the $200m loan that had been allegedly misappropriated.
This investigation was prompted by the public outcry that NMS, one of the supposed key beneficiaries of the said funds had not received its portion and therefore could not purchase drugs for health facilities for this Financial Year 2017/18.
Whereas the said loan had been acquired to provide funds for NMS in order to provide the said medical supplies, despite receiving the money, the ministry of Finance did not provide the said funds to NMS, according to the PAC report. It should be remembered that on January 7, 2016, Parliament originally rejected the loan proposal, but the ministry of Finance changed the objective of the loan emphasizing medical supplies to get approvals required on April 26, 2016.
Kasaija, Muhakanizi in hot soup
In the report, Ossegge said that the Finance ministry under supervision of Kasaija “fraudulently” received the Shs720bn loan in guise of giving it to NMS for procurement of medical supplies.
“The minister of Finance by false pretense impressed upon Parliament in the justification for the loan approval stating that the critical area for funding was medical supplies by NMS thus the ministry received the money fraudulently,” the report says.
The report also observed that the ministry received the money and neither informed NMS nor gave it funds. The report further observed that the ministry lied in its letter to the Speaker dated March 15, 2017 saying that the necessary contracts had not been provided by NMS to enable the necessary funds to be disbursed.
The committee in its report recommended that minister Kasaija should be censured for misleading the House.
“For misleading the House to believe that the most critical funding objective was medical supplies, lying to Parliament in writing that NMS had never provided the needed supply contracts to enable disbursement of funds and further duping Parliament by re-packaging the same loan thus obtaining money by false pretense, the minister of Finance should be censured,” the report says.
The report also wants Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance to be relieved of his office for “lying to Parliament and for superimposing his authority portrayed by insisting on the loan acquisition against strong advice in writing by the Governor, Bank of Uganda, the Accountant General and the Director of Economic Affairs, Finance ministry and superintending the gross diversion of public funds.”
After Ossegge presented the committee report, Deputy Speaker Oulanyah asked minister Kasaija to give his defence on the report. However, Kasaija said that he did not have anything to say and asked Parliament to give him up to Tuesday next week to present his statement.
“This is a matter that I want to be given an opportunity to explain thoroughly and I would like Parliament to create good time, I bring all the evidence, facts and where I have faulted I will apologize, but where I am sure I have done what I ought to have done I will be firm. So, Mr Speaker, I would request that you give me an opportunity to give my response on Tuesday next week,” Kasaija said.