PAC tasks UNF to justify UGX 139m expenditure for 2021 Pent Series in fresh probe

Hon ASuman Basalirwa (seated) scrutinizes documents presented by UNF officials led by Sarah Babirye Kityo (R) during a PAC hearing | Photo Credit: Courtesy

NCS PROBE PAC tasks UNF to justify UGX 139m expenditure for 2021 Pent Series in fresh probe

Shafic Kiyaga 15:21 - 24.05.2023

UNF received UGX 186 million from the National Council of Sports (NCS) for the preparation and participation of the She Cranes, in the 2021 Pent Series and the Africa Netball Championship held in Namibia between October and November, 2021.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has tasked the Uganda Netball Federation (UNF) to provide proper accountability of the UGX 139 million spent on She Cranes accommodation during their 2021 trip to Namibia as it kicked off a fresh probe into the federation.

The committee's demand comes after the Auditor General's report for the financial year 2020/21 raised concerns regarding the federation's financial management.

According to reports submitted to the committee, UNF received UGX 186 million from the National Council of Sports (NCS) for the preparation and participation of the She Cranes, in the 2021 Pent Series and the Africa Netball Championship held in Namibia between October and November, 2021.

Out of this amount, UGX 139.3 million was allocated for accommodation expenses for the 27-member contingent, with the remaining funds designated for visa fees, COVID-19 tests, medical tests, participation fees, players' allowances, and team kits.

However, after reviewing the invitation letter, the Auditor General’s report found that Namibia’s Netball Federation pledged to cover accommodation expenses, yet both NCS and UNF presented receipts for the same expense.

While meeting officials from both NCS and UNF on Monday, PAC vice chairman Asuman Basalirwa expressed concern over the alleged discrepancy and demanded clarification from the UNF over the receipts worth UGX 139.3m from Safari Hotels in Namibia.

“According to what is on record, accommodation was supposed to be provided by the host,” the Auditor General explained.

NCS General Secretary, Dr Patrick Ogwel (C) appearing before the committee with officials from the sports council | Photo Credit: Parliament

“UNF and NCS have presented accountability indicating that they had receipts for accommodation.”

Basalirwa asked, "So we need to know whether accommodation was provided by the host or not. If so, where are the documents?"

Dr Bernard Patrick Ogwel, the NCS general secretary, explained that the disbursement of funds, was based on a requisition formally communicated to them by the UNF president, Sarah Babirye Kityo.

"The requisition had the relevant documents,” Ogwel explained, adding “These included an invoice from Safari Hotels Namibia of $39,033 equivalent to UGX 139 million.”

“Accountability documents including vouchers were also submitted by UNF and we received it and forwarded to relevant committees."

Meanwhile, Cecilia Anyakoit, an NCS Council Member, while appearing before the committee provided context, revealing details around the lack of transparency surrounding the sponsorship.

"I want to state that at the beginning, it is true that we didn’t know that the Namibia Government had sponsored Pent Series,” she stated.

“But we received petitions from within UNF. One of the key petitions that came from members was the issue of accountability, raising the issue that the money from Government is not fully accounted for and utilized."

EVIDENCE: UNF's Sarah Kityo defending herself before the committee. She has asked NCS for proof of the allegations against her | Photo Credit: Parliament

“When we invited them, we requested that each should come with evidence on allegations they have raised. On the issue of accountability is when the petitioners came and told the Committee that they had agreed to hold information on the sponsorship of Namibia.”

“They confessed and we asked them whether they had evidence of that and a letter was produced. And that letter is marked A, which came from the General Secretary Amina Monday together with Richard Muhumuza,” she added.

Anyakoit further disclosed, "When the President came to the committee, we asked her whether she was aware of the Namibian sponsorship, and she said yes.”

“We asked her whether she had a letter to that effect, and she said yes and she gave us the letter marked B. The one marked C is the one which had come with a requisition but if you read these letters, all the three are different.”

“When we asked Mande [the General Secretary] if the President, was aware, she said yes because the letter was addressed to the president and she was just copied.”

“They sent it to both of them by email. That’s why you cannot have the original because it was sent by email from Namibia. So, we don’t have the original on our side,” she argued.

While appearing before the committee earlier, Babirye denied a profusion of documents that were submitted by NCS to PAC maintaining that the Namibian government did not fully or partially cover costs and challenged NCS to provide evidence.

“I want NCS to present any proof that African champion paid even for a single bottle of water,” she said.

“This is a 2021 audit query and by now someone from NCS or Ministry of Education should have travelled to Namibia on a fact-finding mission.”

Kityo also denied most of the documents submitted by Dr Ogwel saying “there is a lot of witch hunt when it comes to accountability of Uganda Netball Federation.”

These include but are not limited to a November 17, 2023 letter in which Babirye was purportedly giving accountability for the Pent Series and Africa Netball Championships.

Hon. Basalirwa announced that the disputed documents would undergo thorough scrutiny by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and handwriting experts to eliminate any possibility of forgery.

During the investigation conducted on 11 May 2023, the committee unearthed discrepancies in the financial accountability of UGX 100 million, which was earmarked for UNF in the Financial Year 2021/2022.

The funds were intended to support the preparation of Uganda's men's netball team, the Rock, for their participation in the International Male Netball Championship held in South Africa in September 2021.

After the revelation, the committee referred Babirye, Richard Muhumuza (Vice President), and Aidah Nambusi (Treasurer) to the Parliament Police Criminal Investigation Department for further investigation and handling.

During the proceedings, both Muhumuza and Nambusi accused Babirye of diverting a significant portion of the funds for her personal gain, disregarding the intended activities and objectives.