EALA MPs have demanded investigations into a fraud case in one of the Community’s new institutions where “irregular transactions” of Rwf5m ($6,000) and Rwf 26m ($32,000) were made in two consecutive days last year.
MP Jeremie Ngendakumana (Burundi) Chairperson of the regional Assembly’s Committee on Accounts presented the report for the oversight activity of new EAC institutions including the Zanzibar-based East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) responsible for promoting use of Kiswahili in the region and said “the Commission faced fraud on its account.”
His report highlights two irregular transactions of $6,000 dated 10/3/2016 under description “Chq Encashment CHQ000022 SHAMIRA R. MASIKA AT-TZZ” and $32,000 on 11/3/2016 under description “AT-LUMTZ4614 TRANSFER TPDC FT16071343H” respectively.
Ngendakumana said: “The manager KCB Zanzibar was not willing to cooperate with the Executive Secretary but insisted that he was dealing with the EAC Secretariat. Although the money was later returned, the Commission should demand to know who brought it back, when it was brought back, who approved the transactions and for what activity.
“At the time of fraud, the mobile number for the Executive Secretary also signatory to the said account had been diverted by Vodacom to some unknown number such that when the bank called the Executive Secretary for verification, the unknown person confirmed the transactions.”
Despite various correspondences to KCB Zanzibar, Bank of Tanzania, Police, the EAC Ministry in Tanzania, no substantial feedback was given, the lawmaker said. The Committee on Accounts conducted its oversight work from February 26 to March 2.
The Assembly wants the EAC Council of Ministers to ensure that the KCB bank headquarters provides a proper explanation on the matter; and the matter is properly audited by the Audit Commission.
Speaker Daniel Kidega reminded Dr. Ali Kirunda Kivejinja, Uganda’s second deputy Prime Minister and Minister for EAC Affairs, who is also Chairperson of the EAC Council of Ministers that the issue had also come up during the debate on the bloc’s new budget. The Speaker stressed that it is important the problem be given serious attention and if need be, officials involved be compelled to step aside for purposes of investigation.
On Friday, MP Martin Ngoga told The New Times that: “The matter is clearly a case of fraud. The Assembly was told by the Secretariat that the Police are investigating the matter. That is the way it should be done.”
“That said, we emphasized the need for steps to be taken to overcome undue delays because we could not see convincing reasons as to why investigations should take that long. There has to be legal finality to this.”
During Thursday’s debate in the Assembly, the former Rwandan Prosecutor General told colleagues that anyone who has been involved in an investigation knows very well that once money is returned to a bank as was in the case it implies that the culprit is actually known.
Lawmakers put pertinent questions to the Council of Ministers and Amb. Liberat Mfumukeko, the EAC Secretary General, but did not get convincing answers especially on why investigations are taking long.
“Since money has been returned to the account, why is it that you cannot tell who the culprit is? Why can’t you identify them from the bank statement? Why does it take long to conclude this investigation?” Ngoga asked on Thursday.
Speaker: Who is fooling who?
Speaker Daniel Kidega said: “Who is fooling who? If the money was stolen and then returned, someone is fooling the entire Community and this House. This is not acceptable. This House is offended by those who are trying to fool the entire Community. This House do recommend to you Chair Council that, please, do investigate and report to this Assembly as soon as possible.”
Lawmakers demanded to know the progress made in this investigation. They stressed that there was no need to investigate much. “We just need to know who authorized the money transfer,” said MP Jeremie Ngendakumana (Burundi).
Mfumukeko told lawmakers that he too was interested in the investigation. He said: “It is very important to me. In case that KCB doesn’t present the information, we take measures.”
At some point, MP Bernard Mulengani (Uganda) accused KCB bank for failing “to protect the funds of the Community,” but MP AbuBakr Ogle (Kenya) interjected saying it would be unfair for debate to veer towards penalizing the bank since the lawmakers’ main focus was on “a particular [EAC] staff involved in theft.” The Kenyan legislator requested that the Assembly focus on the latter and not divert.
The third Assembly which has concluded its five-year tenure referred the matter to the incoming fourth Assembly which is expected to be sworn in at a later date this month for further pursuit.
In the new $110 million 2017/18 EAC budget passed by the Assembly on Thursday, the Kiswahili Commission was allocated $1,553,098 for its operations.
The case of fraud comes at a time when the Assembly and the Council are increasingly getting agitated by reports of financial impropriety in the bloc’s organs and are pressing for value for money audits.
Last week, the House called for urgent expedition to the Summit of EAC Heads of State, of a probe report by the eminent Permanent Secretaries of Partner States responsible for EAC Affairs, about mismanagement and impropriety at the executive level of the Community.
When MPs alluded to PSs’ report, on Wednesday, Dr. Kivejinja said he had not gone through “the report which I commissioned,” signaling that it was not the right time to talk about it.
But he assured lawmakers that matters in the report will be duly addressed and that “nobody who does something wrong should be shielded.”