Fresh Scandal At Gender Min. As Top Officials Swindle Over Shs 5bn UNCC Funds

Several Officials working under the Uganda National Cultural Centre (UNCC) are in deep trouble after the office of the Auditor General discovered that they are misusing billions of taxpayers’ money instead of delivering it to the Consolidated Fund of Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

This comes after Auditor General’s report indicated that for the past several years, the Government has not been receiving any money from Nommo Gallery and National Theatre, the entities directly owned and managed by  UNCC, yet hundreds of millions are collected annually from these two entities and it shared amongst government officials.

It should be noted that  UNCC is a Ugandan statutory body that was established by the Uganda National Cultural Centre Act, a 1959 Act of Parliament (amended 1965), with its headquarters at the corner of Said Barre Avenue and De Winton Street.

The Centre has two main components: the National Theatre and the Nommo Gallery, both of which are located in central Kampala. The National Theatre provides a venue for stage performances of different kinds, and also serves as a cinema.

The Nommo Gallery features exhibitions of works of art by both Ugandan and foreign artists. The Centre also offers a snack bar, which claims to offer the “best African dishes served with best spices and ambience”, and the Craft Village, where locally made handicrafts are sold.

In a linked Forensic Audit, UNCC did not maintain all the records used in the receipting and recording of revenue collected in all the financial years covered. There were no cash books, general ledgers, banking slips and abstracts prepared for the period under review.  Similarly not all the expenditure vouchers were availed during the investigation.

Here below are some excerpts from the linked Auditor General’s report, which point at gross abuse of public funds by UNCC officials;

Unaccounted for Withdrawals Shs 2,397,449,029

Basing on the record of deposits made on the two sets of bank statements; Bank of Africa and Barclays bank, it was noted that a total of Shs 3,969,521,507 was deposited during the period and expenditure vouchers availed only amount to Shs 1,566,252,367 with a bank balance of Shs5,820,111. The above balance was spent without the necessary documentation required.

Weak internal controls

It was noted that the internal controls were either non-existent or weak as far as the UNCC operations are concerned.

There are no provisions to reconcile the car park revenue collections with invoicing vouchers, the receipts issued, the period of parking and the amounts charged.

There are no records of receipts and invoices procured, storage, issuance and used counterfoils.

The absence of the above expose the entity to the risk of revenue misappropriation.

This also applies to expenditure vouchers, banking slips and moveable assets. There are no records as to how the moveable assets were acquired, from whom and at what cost as there are not engraved and no register to track their locations and conditions.

Non-Preparation Of Financial Statements

UNCC Board of Trustees and management are expected to report on their operations and performance through the preparations of financial statements. Contrary to their obligation, the entity has never prepared financial statement for my review from 2002 to date. This casts doubt on the measurement of the board performance and management. The stakeholders are also not aware of the performance of this entity, while the funds received during the entire period remain un accounted for.

Doubtful Staff Salaries Shs 329,872,838

Although the above amount of money was paid out as staff salaries, the payments were not justified as the UNCC board did not sign employment contracts with all their staff, contrary to the provisions of the appointments.

Employees were in office on the basis of a letter of appointment which did not clearly define the terms and conditions of their service.  During the interview with the current Executive Director (Mr. Francis Peter Ojede) he confirmed the absence of employment contracts with staff for the years 2008-2013.

Absence of Approved Policies

It was noted that during the period under review, that UNCC had no approved policies and was operating on drafts. No approved manuals and policies were in place. This included the Financial and accounting manual, human resource manual among others.

This implies that the entity’s operations were irregular, and actions null and void.

Provision of Office Space To Artiste SACCO

It was noted that the Artiste SACCO has freely occupied a space of 12 square metres since 1st November 2008 purportedly as a result of a directive by the State Minister of Culture. However the directive was not availed to the team.

This action has led to loss of revenue for the UNCC as the space is not  rented out to generate the revenue.

Valuation of Assets

The audit team noted that the value for land and building carried in the draft financial statements for the years 2011 and 2012 were not commensurate with the current market rates. For instance the value attached to freehold land is Shs 125,000 while the buildings are valued at Shs 19,000. There is no documentary evidence to justify how these figures were arrived at yet the entity is required to prepare the financial statements in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards.

Nonexistence of Contracts Committee and Procurement Unit

It was observed that the entity was operating without a contracts committee and a procurement unit for the period under review. This means that all the procurements made during the period under review lacked approval, documentation and were made contrary to the established PPDA laws.

Unsupported Utility Payments & Statutory Deductions Shs 264,734,807

It was observed that a total of Shs 264,734,807 was purportedly paid to NWSC, URA & NSSF for utilities and statutory deductions.  There is no evidence that these payments reached the intended parties as there are no acknowledgement receipts supporting the payments.

Unauthorized Payments Shs 179,698,817

The investigation revealed that unauthorized payments amounting to Shs 179,698,817 were effected from the years 2009-2012. The payments were made without proper authorization by the accounting officer (Executive Director). It was noted that the payments in all the cases were not authorized  by the Executive Director.

Job descriptions and specifications

The auditors noted that there were no job descriptions and specifications for the positions that the employees held at the UNCC during the period in review (2008- June 2013).

The absence of job specifications can result in recruiting staff without the necessary qualifications. There is no basis for appraisal and performance evaluation of the employees when job descriptions and specifications are not formulated.

Absence of  Internal Audit

The internal audit function provides reasonable assurance that risk management, control, and governance systems are functioning as intended and enables the organisation’s objectives and goals to be met.

The auditors however noted that UNCC for the entire period, operated without internal audit department until December 2013 when Mr. Obetre Charles was appointed as the first internal auditor of UNCC.

Efforts to reach Gender Minister for a comment were futile as his commonly known phones were not available.

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