Kampala, (UG): In a letter dated October 26, 2023, Uganda’s President, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni directed the Ministry of Finance to immediately reinstate Ms Geraldine Busuulwa Ssali as the Permanent Secretary (Top Accounting Officer) at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives less than a month after she was suspended.
The embattled PS had been sacked earlier this month by Mr Francis Mwebesa, the Minister for Trade acting on the orders of Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, the Secretary to the Treasury who also directed for the suspension basing on a report by the Parliament trade committee calling for Ssali’s removal from office over fraud and irregularities that were committed at the ministry on her watch.
At the time of her suspension, Ggoobi indicated that her removal from office was “intended to allow other state actors to institute and conduct investigations into, among others, the allegations of misappropriation of funds at the trade ministry.”
President Museveni through Ms Lucy Nakyobe, the Head of Public Service and also secretary to the cabinet informed Mr Ggoobi to reinstate Ssali as the Trade Ministry’s accounting officer just weeks after she was removed from her position and replaced with Mr Alfred Oyo Andima on an interim basis.
“Reference is made to H.E. the President’s letter concerning the above-mentioned permanent secretary. This is to request you to immediately reinstate Ssali as the accounting officer for the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives as per the president’s directive,” Ms Nakyobe’s letter seen by this publication reads in part.
Parliament’s Committee on Trade opened this inquiry while going through the Ministerial Policy Statement for the FY2023/2024 and the annual budget performance report for the FY2021/2022 of the ministry.
During the investigations, the committee faulted Ms Geraldine Ssali for approving inflated cash advances for suspicious transport-related activities. A parliament probe further established that Ssali spent over Shs550m, to transport ministry documents from Kampala at Farmer’s House to Entebbe town in Wakiso District, which is approximately 34km away.
Additionally, the committee found her liable for the suspected inflation of the estimated cost of renovating Farmer’s House, the current home of the trade ministry, from Shs4.6 billion to Shs6.2 billion.
The Committee led by Mr Mwine Mpaka (NRM, Mbarara City South), the Committee endorsed the removal of Ms Ssali as an accounting officer for the ministry after reasoning that she failed to ensure the proper use of money appropriated for her docket.
“[She should be] investigated, with a view [to] prosecution by the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions),” Mr Mpaka said while referring to his report.
The offences, Mr Mpaka said, were justified under Section 79 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), 2015 and include negligence of duty provided for under Sections 26 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) Act, 2003 and Section 45 of the PFMA, 2015.
Other recommendations were made with respect to alleged contraventions of Section 95 of the PPDA, 2003; disobedience of statutory duty under Section 116 of the Penal Code Act, Cap.120; abuse of office, causing financial loss to the government under sections 11 and 20 of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2009, among other offences.
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