Legislators have warned the government to resist the temptation of using the plight of Ugandan students quarantined in Wuhan, China over Coronavirus, to defraud taxpayers.
The concern was raised by Ayivu County MP, Bernard Atiku, who claimed that the Ministry of Finance had sent up to $600,000 to Uganda’s Embassy over and above the approved $61,000 meant for the Ugandan students stranded in the country.
Atiku urged the August House to interest itself in reports from students in Wuhan that not all of them have been given money.
“Students are saying that not all have received the money and even the US$618 being given out to each student cannot match the rising costs of living in Wuhan,” said Atiku during the plenary sitting on Wednesday 11 March 2020.
The State Minister for Finance (Planning), David Bahati, explained that no money will be lost due to the error, as the Ministry had already asked the Ugandanmbassy in China to return what is above the approved US$61,000.
“It was just discoordination on our part, the original request was for US$600,000 but cabinet approved only $61,000. No money will be lost, and every student is getting what they are supposed to get,” he said.
Bahati’s argument did not seem to convince legislators who said it was becoming a tradition for the Ministry of Finance to disburse excess funds, with the excess ending up misappropriated.
“This cannot just be negligence, it is a common occurrence in the Ministry [of Finance]; the Accounting Officer is often asked to remit back money but this money never goes back to the Treasury,” said Reagan Okumu (DFC, Aswa).
Relatedly the State Minister for Health (Primary Health Care), Joyce Moriku Kaducu confirmed that one case of Coronavirus has been confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
She, however, said that the Ministry would use the same measures used during the Ebola outbreak in the Congo to contain Coronavirus at Uganda’s borders.