By Max Patrick Ocaido
Permanent Secretaries Rosette Byengoma and Christine Guwatudde Kintu have been dropped as Accounting Officers of the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs and Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) respectively.
This is contained in a letter dated June 18, written by Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi to the Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige listing the accounting officers for the new FY 2019/2020 that starts in July this year.
According to the new list, the Undersecretary of Ministry of Defence Edith Buturo will be the new accounting officer for the ministry for the FY 2019/20, replacing Byengoma who has served for a decade now. Apparently, Byengoma is considering retiring from public service due to age having taken over from late Noble Mayombo who died in 2007.
In the new changes, Joel Wanjala, OPM Undersecretary will also replace PS Guwatudde as accounting officer. Guwatudde's name was prominent in the OPM scandal regarding the resettlement program for landslides victims.
The other undersecretaries who are new accounting officers are Lynette Bridget Bigirwa, the Undersecretary of Internal Affairs and Prisca Boonabantu of Energy and Mineral Development.
Ministry of Finance Spokesperson Jim Mugunga told Kampala Post that the mandate to designate accounting officers is a prerogative of the Secretary to the Treasury who is the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and that before designating an accounting officer, the PSST must be satisfied that either previous work was done effectively or the officer does not have any accountability issues.
“In some instances, other officers can do the work of accounting officer; it does not mean that the accounting officer must necessarily be the Permanent Secretary. In case of the finance ministry, the accounting officer is not the PSST, but rather the undersecretary,” Mugunga said.
He, however, said that the above standard explanation may not be the reason that is reflected in the case of Defence and OPM.
“Designating an officer is the role of PSST and he has various considerations including delineating at times a PS who may be heavy on responsibility, sometimes to allow efficiency, but on the other hand it can also be because that officer has some outstanding accountabilities, most accounting officers continue to account and explain themselves yet the PSST has a deadline to designate yet prompting he to designate the undersecretary as an accounting officer,” Mugunga said.
Among other Permanent Secretaries who have retained their portfolios include; Hajji Yunus Kakande, Office of the President, Lucy Nakyobe, State House, Catherine Bitarakwate, Ministry of Public Service, Diana Atwine, Ministry of Health, Patrick Mugoya, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and others.
In accordance with Section 11 (2) (g) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015, the Secretary to the Treasury shall avail to parliament the list of accounting officers for Central Government Ministries, Agencies, Referral Hospitals, Missions Abroad and Local Governments for every new financial year.
Section 45 of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 provides that an Accounting Officer shall— (a) control the regularity and proper use of money appropriated to a vote; (b) be responsible for authorizing any commitment made by a vote; and (c) control the resources received, held or disposed of by or on account of a vote.