By Andrew Cohen
ARUA:The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Local Government on Wednesday ordered for the arrest of the former Arua district Principal Human Resource Officer, Israel Ecoku and the former Arua district Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Doneth Eswelu for causing financial loss to the government of Uganda.
The officials were handed over to police criminal investigation department (CID) officials for further interrogation after the Auditor General’s report implicated them for paying ghost workers and making excess salary payment for about 58 staff in the 2020/21 financial year.
The decision to arrest the officials was agreed upon during a PAC meeting chaired by Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the PAC Local Government Chairperson after the accused failed to defend themselves before the members.
At first, PAC had also ordered for the arrest of Jude Mark Bukenya, the current Arua district CAO, but later reversed the decision on grounds that he was posted to Arua when the loss had already occurred.
“We found no available information to justify why Shs10, 115, 392 was paid to staff whose identities have never been established and therefore, we can qualify them as ghost staff. We direct as committee that the shs10,115,392 be recovered from the Principal Human Resource Officer and by July 6th, we expect that Mr CAO you come along with a letter showing recovery of that money from the said officer,” Mapenduzi who also doubles as the MP of Bardege – Layibi Division in Gulu City directed.
“With that, we are handing over the Principal Human Resource Officer to help the police in finding out why ghost staff should be paid. But we also want the supervisors, the CAO that time and the current CAO to help police officers in this investigation. So, the three of you will interact with the police,” Mapenduzi ruled before changing his mind to acquit the current district CAO.
He said handing over the officials to police means they are already in their hands to either consider giving them bond or not.
Mapenduzi also asked police to help the committee in establishing details about a pensioner who was paid excess of Shs17m and whether the payment was motivated by some officers in the district or not.
He equally gave the district officials two weeks to show the committee a detailed schedule for the recovery of Shs37.4m which was paid in salary excess to a total of 58 staff.
After establishing that the Arua team was disorganized and unprepared to answer the remaining audit queries, the committee decided to summon the team to Kampala.
“We expect Arua to appear before this committee on July 6, 2022 at 10:00am in the morning at Parliament in Kampala. Mr CAO make sure this time you prepare adequately with all the details that we need and make sure you facilitate your chair to come with you and all the officers who are supposed to respond to issues including the Principal HR,” Mapenduzi directed.
Arua’s team appeared before PAC for the second time on Wednesday after Ecoku went into hiding the previous day and switched off his known telephone numbers.
PAC ordered CAO and the RDC to produce him, forcing the officials to make radio announcements on local radio stations in Arua for people to report his whereabouts.
It is because of the pressure from people that Ecoku appeared before the committee which immediately subjected him to Oath before his arrest.