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Lira hospital accountant arrested over Shs 94 million PAYE funds

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – Central Government has tasked detectives attached to parliament to interrogate Lira Regional Referral Hospital Accountant, Felix Ogwang over the non-remittance of PAYE deductions to the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

The decision followed a cross-examination of Ogwang in regard to the delayed remittance of PAYE deductions by the hospital amounting to 94.89 million Shillings.

In the 2020/2021 audit report, Auditor General John Muwanga revealed that the hospital Pay As You Earn-PAYE deductions had not been paid by the end of the financial year on June 30, 2021.

When tasked to explain the delayed remittance of PAYE, Ogwang told the committee that he had effected the payment in May 2021 but the file was rejected during the interface between the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS) and the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS).

The committee learnt that Ogwang only effected the payment to URA in February 2022.

Xavier Kyooma, the Ibanda North MP asked Ogwang why he had not tried making the payment in June 2021 and where the money in question had been kept for the months running to February 2022.

Fredrick Angura, the Tororo South MP also questioned where the hospital officials kept the money for it not to be taken back to the Consolidated Fund at the end of the financial year.

Angura also pointed out that the 94.8 million is not reflected in the hospital’s Statement of Outstanding Commitments.

Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP also questioned whether the money had not been kept in a separate account for it to accrue interest before being sent to URA.

Ogwang insisted that the money had been taken back to the Consolidated Fund at the close of the financial year and that it had not been kept on some account to accumulate interest. He added that he only learnt of the failure to send the money to URA after the Auditor General highlighted the anomaly.

The Vice-Chairperson of the committee Asuman Basalirwa directed that Ogwang takes an oath before giving any other evidence on the matter.

Ogwang told MPs that money taken back to the Consolidated Fund is not always reflected or captured in the financial accounts. He also noted that there is no way the hospital can pick the money from the financial system and keep it aside for future use.

Ogwang further told the committee that the money paid to URA in February 2022 was picked from the available funds meant for salaries for the current financial year 2021/2022.

Asked whether this action had been approved by the Secretary to Treasury, Ogwang said there was no approval.

Basalirwa was prompted to direct CID officers attached to the committee to escort Ogwang to their offices at Parliament for further questioning and handling.

Basalirwa also directed that the other hospital officials including the Hospital Director, Dr. J.S.O Obbo, and the Internal Auditor, William Byaruhanga be put on oath before making any other submissions to the committee.

Obbo said that the hospital did not pay any penalties to URA for delayed remittance of the PAYE something that the committee described as unusual.

The Income Tax Act requires withholding agents to URA of any tax that has been withheld within 15 days after the end of the month to send it.

Byaruhanga explained that he was only deployed at Lira hospital in October 2021 after the audit process had taken place and that he does not know much about the issue.

Asked whether he had not received a handover report and what actions he had taken so far, Byaruhanga noted that he had not received the handover report ever since his deployment.

This raised more concern from the MPs who asked the hospital director to offer an explanation.

Dr. Obbo said that the handover report had not been presented since the previous Internal Auditor was on maternity leave at the time Byaruhanga was deployed.

He said that efforts to have the previous Internal Auditor hand over formally have not been fruitful despite several calls made to her and a formal letter.

Basalirwa told Dr. Obbo that this situation raises questions about his leadership and cautioned that his committee would not allow his transfer to Mbale Hospital considering the irregularities at Lira Hospital where he has been Director.

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