Defence Ministry Blames UGX 320Bn ‘Ghost’ Pension Claims on Poor Verification

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The accounting officer of the ministry Edith Buturo while meeting the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament on Wednesday was tasked by the committee led by Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi to explain outstanding domestic arrears amounting to 649.3 Billion Shillings at the end of the 2018/2019 financial year.

The figure includes a 508.6 Billion Shillings entry for Pension and gratuity and Shillings 140.6bn for goods and services.

In her responses, Buturo noted that following an audit the 508.6bn pension and gratuity arrears had been cut down to 188.4 Billion Shillings. However, this raised eyebrows among MPs on the committee. Buturo added that the final figure had been approved by the Ministry of Finance and auditors from Ernst & Young.

Mafabi demanded to know how the 508bn shillings had been arrived at initially and accused the ministry of creating ‘ghost’ pensioners to steal public funds.

Buturo denied the accusation and told the committee that it was the ministry that had demanded the audit and requested the Secretary to the Treasury for additional auditors to scrutinize the pension claimants.

She noted that the ministry had started a verification exercise in 2010 and had gone around the country to meet claimants and verify records and collect proof of eligibility.

She notes that this exercise had created a bloated register for claimants since in some cases several dependents had been recorded separately under one veteran’s name. She said this problem was brought about by using different formulas by different verification teams to capture data.

However Nandala says the anomaly has been on the books for a long time and the Auditor General has been querying the figure since 2013, he argued that the government could have lost money in the process.

Buturo dispelled this concern by stating that the defence ministry had never received an allocation for pension arrears until the 2020/2021 financial year where 90 Billion Shillings was allocated from the verified arrears of 188.4 Billion Shillings.

James Waluswaka the Bunyole West MP accused the ministry of only correcting the records after realizing auditors from Ernst & Young were going to audit the Ministry.  

Buturo noted that the ministry was not only verifying UPDF veterans but went back as far as the Kings African Rifles in the colonial era.

She denied that the records had been adjusted because Ernst & Young had been sent to audit arrears in the defence ministry.

Nandala has asked the ministry to present a copy of the ministry’s audit to the committee before the end of the day.  

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