The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) Executive Director is under investigation by the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) for misappropriating Shs12.5 billion shillings.
This occurred without obtaining the required clearance from the Secretary to the Treasury and approval from Parliament.
During a meeting on Tuesday, 18 July 2023 between the committee and the bureau, the Chairperson of the Board of UNBS, Charles Musekuura said that the Director, David Livingstone Ebiru had caused financial loss at the entity and was at the helm of corruption and numerous irregularities.
COSASE is scrutinizing the report of the Auditor General on the financial statements of UNBS for the financial year ended 30 June 2022.
According to Musekuura, UNBS maintains a collection account for money received from PVoC suppliers, a programme that involves inspecting and verifying goods through appointed inspection agents in the exporting country, which generates royalties.
However, he said that all funds from this account are intended to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund.
He revealed that out of the total US$4.9 million in the account, only US$1.5 million had been sent to the Consolidated Fund, while the remaining US$3.4 million was converted and utilised to support the bureau’s operations at its source under the authority of the director.
“The US$3.4 million was used at the source which, to my understanding, was contrary to the law and I am mindful that whatever it is that I have to do at the bureau, I am guided by the law,” Musekuura said.
He said that money moved from the PvOC account to a Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) account, a programme that was being run by the UNBS. The account was meant specifically to receive money from donors.
Additionally, Musekuura commented on five members of staff who caused financial loss of Shs9.2 billion and were still at the office to date.
Upon receiving information about staff involved in malpractice, the director initiated an internal investigations committee.
Subsequently, the investigations revealed that five individuals had a case to answer and the report was submitted to the director in October 2022.
However, the director ordered another investigation to ascertain the exact amount lost.
As a result, two implicated staff have since left the bureau while the other three are still in employment.
“The meeting resolved that the ED evaluates the report of the Shs9.3 billion and takes appropriate action given that it is not a disciplinary report; it was an investigations report. So that management meeting did not think that it would be a disciplinary matter,” he said.
Museruuka said when he attempted to find out what an appropriate action he took through a letter to the director, the infighting started.
He added that although the UNBS Council recommended a special audit related to the happenings of at the bureau, the director couldn’t allow this.
When asked by the Committee Chairperson, Hon. Joel Ssenyonyi to explain what happened, the Director, Ebiru stated that indeed he had broken the law by appropriating money without clearance, but there was an urgent need.
“Our budget was cut by over Shs20 billion and it was core operating activities. I wrote to the Secretary to Treasury that this limits the bureau as it will not be able to meet staff obligations like payment of gratuity,” he said.
When asked by Ssenyonyi how much he spent at the source, Ebiru said he did not have the figures readily but pledged to provide them in the subsequent meeting.
Ssenyonyi said that Ebiru had asked for a supplementary budget of Shs27 billion, questioning whether this was the amount that he used at source since it is what he had asked for.
“I did what the chairman is not very happy with and of course, what is contrary to the Public Finance Management Act on the basis that I tried my best to keep the institution running rather than creating arrears for the government where I would personally be held liable, so these are legitimate expenditures,” he said.
Ssenyonyi ended the meeting, asking the bureau to provide all documentary evidence of the transactions including certified bank statements, official meeting minutes and letters and correspondences from the minister responsible.