135Billion was stolen by officials in the Office of Prime Minister

Guwatudde on Left and Muwanga on Right

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has over the years paid gratuity to unverified Luwero-Rwenzori triangle veterans, which might cause the Government financial loss, the Auditor General (AG) has said.

OPM has since 2008 paid over sh135b to 60,948 beneficiaries of the KASIIMO initiative under the Luwero- Rwenzori Triangle programme

However, the AG, John Muwanga, is worried that neither the Luwero Triangle war debt verification committee, nor the OPM, has a comprehensive verifiable database of the beneficiaries paid.

In a report we saw, Muwanga said: “OPM maintains lists of veterans submitted to Centenary Bank for payment since the inception of the programme 10 years ago, but it lacks a comprehensive database detailing verified, verified and paid, verified but not paid and those pending verification over the period.”

He said it makes the management susceptible to making either double payments or paying nonexistent beneficiaries. The AG also observed that OPM maintains a manual database of schedules sent to Centenary Bank for payment, which can easily be misplaced or lost in case of a hazard.

“They risk making double payments to beneficiaries because of the lack of a verifiable database. The management may also lose vital information for future use, as a result of manually archiving data,” Muwanga said.

When the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee summoned OPM’s permanent secretary, Christine Guwatudde, last month, she declined to respond to the audit queries raised by Muwanga.

However, in the AG’s report, OPM’s management explained that they have since undertaken an exercise to register all veterans across the country and, as such, they now maintain an electronic database for all paid veterans. With the payment of noncombatant veterans expected to be concluded next year, payment of 15,623 of them remains pending.

Following complaints of the existence of ghost veterans, President Yoweri Museveni in 2014 ordered a fresh verification of the list of beneficiaries to streamline payment of their gratuity.

The AG has on several occasions expressed concern over the manner in which OPM doles out gratuity to the said noncombatant veterans. In 2014, the AG’s report pointed at a possible fictitious scheme in which sh6b was paid to the said beneficiaries under the guise of gratuity.

The OPM is no stranger, to corruption scandals; in 2012 Sh38b meant to rehabilitate areas devastated by the war against LRA rebels was stolen while last year, another abuse of funds for refugees was reported.

The genesis of the Saga

In 2008, the Government charged OPM with paying gratuity to non-combatant war veterans (KASIIMO Initiative), under the Luwero-Rwenzori Triangle programme.

Under the programme, the beneficiaries are supposed to receive a one-off payment for their non-combatant contribution to the 1980s liberation war that ushered the National Resistance Movement/ Army (NRM) into power.

To execute the payments, OPM relies on lists of beneficiaries that are generated by the Luwero Triangle war debt verification committee in order to transfer funds to Centenary Bank for onward transfer to the veterans’ individual bank accounts.

However, OPM has neither verified the existence of those paid nor created a database to indicate those paid and the pending. According to OPM’s financial reports, a sum of sh135b was spent on 60,948 beneficiaries between 2008 and 2018, while an additional sh25b was, transferred to the programmes accounts during the last financial year.