News and Views
Pressure on government to suspend Bigirimana
Pressure is mounting on the government to suspend the Permanent Secretary in the Office of Prime Minister, Mr Pius Bigirimana, who is among the top officials named over the loss of billions in donor funds meant for the reconstruction of northern Uganda and Karamoja sub-region.
Mr Bigirimana’s continued stay at the OPM has been called into question and was a source of widespread criticism yesterday, especially after Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi claimed on Monday that there was no evidence that he stole any money. Mr Bigirimana denies any wrongdoing.
Leader of Opposition in Parliament Nandala Mafabi presented a statement in Parliament, highlighting what he called “the government duplicity” in the handling of the fraud suspects at the OPM.
Mr Mafabi, supported by Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo, asked the government to explain why some officials were interdicted and yet Mr Bigirimana, who was implicated in the Auditor General’s report on the billion-shilling scandal, was “not touched”.
“Our view is that the PS must leave office because there is evidence that he knew about the stealing and kept quiet until when it became too late,” Mr Nandala told the Daily Monitor. “It’s outrageous for Mr Mbabazi to claim that there is no evidence against Bigirimana as if he did not bother to internalise the Auditor General’s report.”
Mr Ssekikubo said if Mr Bigirimana remains in office, “he could meddle with evidence implicating him and other officials at OPM, Bank of Uganda and Ministry of Finance.” Following public outcry, suspension of foreign aid by some donor nations which also demanded action, the government on Monday broke its silence and suspended 17 officials from Bank of Uganda, OPM and Ministry of Finance.
Mr Ssekikubo added: “When it came to Jimmy Lwamafa of Public Service, the ghost pensioners were not audit queries but when it comes to Mr Bigirimana they change the position. This is unfair. But let those who are protecting Mr Bigirimana know that we will not rest until he is also interdicted.”
A special audit carried out by the Auditor General found substantial evidence detailing how aid from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark was transferred to unauthorised accounts in a sophisticated scam which resulted in the theft of at least Shs50 billion.
Mr Godfrey Kazinda, a former principal accountant in the OPM, has already been charged in connection with the alleged embezzlement. But by last evening, the government was still standing by the PS even as Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah ordered the acting Leader of Government Business, Mr Daudi Migereko (Lands) ,to ensure that a response on the matter is presented today “without fail”.
Mr Oulanyah (Omoro, NRM), also asked Dokolo MP Felix Okot Ogong (NRM) to present a substantive motion on behalf of the Greater North critical of the theft of funds meant for the people of northern Uganda and Karamoja sub-region. “We want whoever was named in the Auditor General’s report including the PS to be interdicted and the funds for NUSAF, I and II be audited,” Mr Ogong said.
In the Auditor General’s report it was, for instance, discovered that Shs20.1 billion was fraudulently deposited on the Crisis Management Account and subsequently spent without any approved work plans.
In this case, the Auditor General says that, Mr Bigirimana did not seek information from Ministry of Finance regarding the transfers but went ahead and utilised funds that had been fraudulently transferred.