Arua CAO, deputy quit over missing sh509m

Ochengel (right) handing over to Eswilu, the new CAO

The local government permanent secretary, Ben Kumumanya, has interdicted Ismail Ochengel, the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of Arua and his deputy, Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, following a directive from the Inspectorate of Government (IGG).

Ochengel and Mbiiwa were interdicted on December 19 last year by Kumumanya to pave the way for investigations after they failed to supervise Paul Edobo, the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) desk officer, who absconded from duty and is on the run.

Ochengel handed over office to Donath Eswilu, the new CAO, who was transferred from Isingiro district and Mbiiwa handed over to Robert Charles Ogwang from Yumbe on Friday.

IGG investigation

Kumumanya’s actions followed the IGG’s December 18 letter addressed to the ministry’s permanent secretary asking him to interdict the two officers to pave the way for investigations.

The IGG is conducting investigations into suspected theft of sh509m meant for the payment of group beneficiary suppliers of agricultural products and beehives in Arua district under NUSAF3. The inspectorate’s investigations are to ascertain how Edobo executed the scheme and prosecute him and any accomplices that may be found culpable of participating in the misappropriation of the money and its recovery.

Consequently, it has been deemed necessary that the CAO and his deputy, on whose watch the funds were stolen, are removed from office to enable the inspectorate to conduct investigations without interference of key witnesses and evidence. When contacted on phone, Ochengel said he received the copy of the letter from IGG and that it was within the powers of the IGG to investigate him.

Missing funds

Ochengel, before his interdiction, together with the district executive committee, had agreed in a document dated December 3, 2018, to pay off the suppliers using unconditional grants and local revenue amounting to sh509m. Minutes from the committee meeting held on November 27 in the district chairperson’s office resolved that the district council take full responsibility to pay Equator Seeds Suppliers sh401m and sh108m for beehives sourced from the communities by Edobo and his agents to avoid legal challenges and costs.

 Appreciation

Nahori Oyaa, the Resident District Commissioner, commended the IGG for responding to the investigations.

He appealed to public servants to serve the people wholeheartedly so as to ensure smooth running of governmental programmes. Eswilu also appealed to the district stakeholders to cooperate. Boniface Alioni, the councillor for Logiri sub-county, demanded that the LC5 chairperson, Wadri Sam Nyakua; the finance secretary, Sabo Kamilo and finance chairperson Bayo Wena resign over what he called incompetence.

Nyakua admitted that there was a political failure in monitoring the NUSAF projects. He vowed never to resign, saying he was not directly implicated in the corruption scandal. The Indicative Planning Figure for Arua under NUSAF is sh13.5b, but the district has already mismanaged some of the money. Currently, NUSAF projects for the district have been suspended for three months, pending investigations