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Uganda: Audit exposes Shs2.7b pension fund theft in Health ministry

A pension scam has hit the ministry of Health with officials blamed for paying out about Shs2.7b to people reportedly not supposed to benefit, Saturday Monitor can reveal.

This newspaper has seen a copy of a draft internal audit report which indicates the money is likely to have been paid to non-existent pensioners.

The report covering the pensions and payroll for the Financial Year 2017/2018, and signed by Ms Annet Musiime, the assistant commissioner for Internal Audit, queries how Shs1.5b was paid to beneficiaries whose records are not on the pension payroll.

The report also exposes a discrepancy between the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System pension data file and the Integrated Financial Management System.

“Audit, however, noted that payments to the tune of Shs1,589,517,109 were made to beneficiaries who did not have corresponding records on the IPPS pension payroll.

This implies that there could have been manual intervention in between the two systems that led to payment of the said funds,” the report states.

The same report indicates that the Ministry of Health made payments of Shs1.1b to pensioners who had exceeded their pensionable period of 15 years and there is no record of life certificates for the beneficiaries.

The pensions policies provide that a pensioner will benefit from the scheme for 15 years after his or her retirement and there must be certified evidence that they are still alive for them to continue receiving the money.

“This might have been caused by management failure to adhere to this requirement. Absence of evidence of continued existence of pensioners in form of life certificates to support pension payments may imply payments to non-existent pensioners,” the auditors noted.

Although the pension scheme is managed by the Ministry of Public Service, the payments are recentralised so that the ministries in which the beneficiaries served are responsible for effecting payments.

The report also highlights the issue of maintenance of pensioners who never retired under the Ministry of Health.

The auditors say of the 891 pensioners on the payroll, a total of 263 have respective votes where they retired from yet there is no information about where 119 pensioners belong.

The auditors blamed the Health Ministry management for being reluctant to reconcile information from the Ministry of Public Service and the information on the files kept by the Health ministry, saying this poses a risk of paying non-existent pensioners.

Ms Musiime in her report says the audit process realised that the Health Ministry has not implemented enough preventative and detective procedures to mitigate the risk of errors and overpayments over pensions and payroll disbursements.

When contacted, the Health ministry permanent secretary (PS), Dr Diana Atwine, said she was not in position to comment on matters related to payment of pensions because the process is managed by the Ministry of Public Service.

“The best person to explain those issues is the PS of Public Service. Although it is recentralised, Public Service ministry makes sure they approve the payroll and then we pay,” Dr Atwine said.

Efforts to reach Ms Catherine Bitarakwate, the PS of Public Service, were futile as she neither answered nor returned our calls and messages to her known telephone contact.

By Daily Monitor

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