The Uganda Heart Institute (UHI) is under the spotlight for failing to declare a donation of Shs 1.76 billion contrary to the provisions of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015.
According to the Auditor General’s report for the FY 2020/21, the institute received Shs 1.76 billion in off-budget financing that was never declared to the treasury and therefore not appropriated by parliament.
On Wednesday, the officials of the institute led by their executive director, Dr John Omagino appeared before parliament's public accountability committee (PAC) to respond to queries in the report.
Dr Omagino admitted to the committee chaired by Medard Sseggona (Busiro County East) that they received the funds directly from development partners for research and regretted that management failed to declare the money.
He noted that for any subsequent offers, the institute will duly comply with the law, a response that prompted questions from the lawmakers. Kumi municipality MP, Silas Aogon demanded to know why the accountants of the institute flouted the public accounting standards.
“Anything in control of government must be declared to the government. As an institute that employs accountants, how did it happen that these funds from development partners were not declared to the treasury?” Aogon asked.
Agago North County MP, John Amos Okot observed that non-disclosure of such funds breeds suspicious undertakings, a recipe for misappropriation of public funds that must be thoroughly examined.
But Dr Omagino dismissed the suspicions, saying that the money was dispensed to serve its intended purpose as guided by the development partners.
“The money came to the same account, which is monitored by government systems,” Omagino said.
Sseggona reiterated that it is a legal requirement for agencies to declare any form of external or donor funds to the treasury for accountability purposes.
“It is not that the money is lost - it is just a procedural issue that the Auditor General is raising. We are avoiding a scenario where one does not declare funds with the intent to misappropriate it,” Ssegona said.
Omagino claimed that the funds were later declared to the treasury and promised to table the evidence before the committee. The committee issued a two-day ultimatum, until May 13 for the institute to provide evidence that it notified the treasury.
Section 43(1) of the Public Finance Management Act, 2015 states that all expenditure incurred by the government on externally financed projects in a financial year shall be appropriated by Parliament.
The Institute, a component of Mulago National Referral hospital is a specialized, public, tertiary care medical facility owned by the ministry of Health to provide preventive, promotive and clinical cardiovascular services. It also serves as the teaching hospital of Makerere University College of Health Sciences.