Friday, April 13, 2007

PS quizzed over ‘missing’ $200,000

PS quizzed over ‘missing’ $200,000
By REBECCA CHILESHE

THE Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday heard that US$200,000 that Uganda paid as rentals for using Zambia’s offices in Italy cannot be accounted for at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. However, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Tens Kapoma, assured the committee that he would investigate the matter and report back after two weeks.

This was after PAC chairperson, Charles Milupi, said yesterday during the sitting that he would not let the PS off easily on the disappearance of US$200,000, as it was too much money to go without a trace. The Ugandan government paid the US$200,000 in rental fees to the Zambian Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam.

“The PS has to explain where this money is. This matter should have been dealt with at the time the audit query was raised. You did not have to wait to appear before this committee for you to begin to try and trace the money,” he said.

The details of the transaction are that the chancery in Rome was leased to Uganda in 1995 at a monthly rent of 12,500,000 Lira for a period of five years. The Embassy of Uganda continued to rent the building until March 2000 when they vacated the premises, leaving unpaid rentals equivalent to US$200,000.

According to records, in January 2006, the Ugandan government paid an amount of US$200,000 to the London Mission, but up to date, the whereabouts of the funds could not be established.

But Mr Kapoma explained to PAC that the US$200,000 was in fact paid to Zambia’s Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam. The PS said although the money was supposed to be deposited in Control 99, it could not be traced at the time of preparing a report on the ministry.

Nchelenge MP Ben Mwila said the controlling officer should have dealt with this matter, as the person who was ambassador at the time of the incident and the accountant were still alive.

Mr Kapoma said he had been trying to reach the former ambassador to Tanzania in the last ten days but without luck.

“I stand to be corrected, but I believe that this money has been misappropriated. I don't believe that Mr Kapoma can fail to reach this man, whom I also know, in this era of cell phones, " Mr Mwila said.

Mr Milupi said it would have been easy to trace the person who receipted the money because Uganda received a receipt.

The committee also heard that a new mission building was bought in France at a cost of Euro 3.5 million, after the old one was sold for Euro 2.8 million.

Other queries raised in the Auditor General's report were an outstanding bill of K1,220,169,775 in New York, involving parking violation offences committed by various diplomatic staff while driving mission vehicles.

The Auditor General also queried the controlling officer about why a third vehicle had not been procured at the mission in Washington when an amount of US$100,000 in 2005 was received to procure two utility vehicles and a representational car.

The PAC heard that the mission was using a vehicle that was 17 years old.

The USA mission also used K442,538,370 VISA fees without authority.

This was from fees amounting to K3,221,470,420 which were collected between 2004 and June 2006.

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