Trade Ministry PS, Officials Pinned Over Financial Misappropriation
Parliament has adopted a report by its Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry recommending the dismissal of the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Geraldine Ssali.
This is on account of Ssali’s alleged failure to control the regularity and proper use of money appropriated to the vote for procurement of renovation works on offices used by the ministry at Farmer’s House.
Ministry officials including Tom Opio, Daniel Kalule, Deo Byaruhanga and Rosemary Asiimwe will be investigated by the Inspectorate of Government (IG) and the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), pursuant to the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009.
These recommendations are contained in the Committee report presented to the House during a plenary sitting on Tuesday, 29th August 2023.
“Ms Geraldine Ssali should be investigated with a view of prosecution by the DPP for negligence of duty, disobedience of statutory duty, abuse of office and causing financial loss to Government,” reads the report in part.
The committee chairperson, Hon. Mwine Mpaka, noted that in Financial Year 2021/2022, a supplementary request of Shs8 billion was made by then permanent secretary, Grace Adong, for rent of office premises.
Parliament, however, granted Shs5 billion for the purpose, where-after Adong was transferred from the Ministry and handed over office to Ssali.
Ssali, in May 2022, requested the Secretary to the Treasury for virement of the Shs5 billion from rent to renovation of Ministry offices, to which the PSST authorised a change of work plan to enable utilisation of the funds.
“To the utter shock of the committee, it was established that 14 days earlier, even before a revised work plan could have been approved by PSST, Ms Geraldine Ssali had authorised the initiation of the procurement process for renovation of office premises,” said Mwine Mpaka.
He added that Ssali's actions raised suspicion and distrust on how she intended to utilise technical guidance of the PSST yet her request for virement was not legally tenable.
The committee further observed that two different procurements for the renovation were initiated under domestic bidding with different sets of companies under the same procurement reference number.
“This is a clear indication that the procurement process for the on-going renovation works was tainted with fraud therefore rendering it illegal,” Mwine Mpaka added.
Hon. Nathan Nandala-Mafabi (FDC, Budadiri County West) said the Head of Public Service should interdict the trade ministry's accounting officer with immediate effect.
Hon. Susan Amero (Indp., Amuria District Woman Representative) reiterated the Committee's position to dismiss Ssali from office, “...so that she does not interfere in other investigations.”
Hon. James Baba (NRM, Koboko County) called on government to sensitise public servants on how to effectively utilise government systems and resources.
The trade minister, Hon. Francis Mwebesa, committed to tackle graft in the ministry.
“We all have a duty to fight corruption in this country and my ministry will work with other authorities to take action on the recommendations of the committee,” said Mwebesa.
The Speaker, Anita Among, tasked the Minister to present an action taken report on the recommendations within two weeks.