In the latest audit report released by the Auditor General John Muwanga for the financial year 2020/2021, show that UGX 511.42 million Shillings was wrongly deducted from salaries and savings of employees in five regional referral hospitals who are mostly health workers.
Investigators into this matter suspect that senior hospital administrators connive with financial institutions to deduct the loans from health workers salaries. A similar happened to teachers and the matter was raised on the floor of parliament during the 10th Parliament.
The audit report, which has payroll management in the health sector as a key audit area and unauthorised loan deductions from salaries of health workers has now attracted the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in parliament which wants a special investigation be carried out.
The committee chaired by Busiro East MP, Medard Lubega Sseggona is currently inquiring into the different queries raised by Auditor General, John Muwanga.
In their meeting with Jinja Regional Referral hospital on Friday, the committee were told that apart from one staff- Lauben Monday, 85 employees with loan deductions amounting to 157.5 million Shillings did not exist in a report on the Payroll Deduction Management System (PDMS) operated by the Payroll Consults Africa (PCA) as evidence of approvals of their loans.
Dr. Angela Namala, the Jinja Hospital Deputy Director informed PAC that they just realized that they had not written to PCA about the deductions and undertook to ensure harmonization of reports regarding salary deductions.
But Asuman Basalirwa, the Committee Vice Chairperson said that his committee suspects that these are done after conniving with senior hospital administrators.
“We have heard complaints of staff in various entities but including in regional referral hospitals were unauthorized deductions are being made. We dealt with a situation here where we asked for evidence of people having loans, and there was no evidence. This is an observation we are taking seriously because some of these loans are non-existent,” said Basalirwa.
Basalirwa also said that they are investigating connivance between senior officials and microfinance institutions.
Sarah Opendi, the Tororo Woman MP said that deductions without evidence of staff ever taking loans is all over all regional referral hospitals and that this cannot be taken lightly.There are 16 regional referral hospitals
“This calls for a serious investigation because it is likely that there are some people who must be benefiting from this system. Yesterday, we were in Masaka, it was the same thing. All other regional referral hospitals we have visited have the same problem,” said the former Minister of State for Health.
Opendi says that without letters of undertaking from hospitals, employees can’t get loans and that their salaries cannot be deducted. Opendi also pointed out fraud in the unauthorized deductions.
John Paul Mpalanyi, the Kyotera County MP asked officials from Jinja Hospital about the recovery process of money that was wrongly deducted from staff.
Dr. Namala said that the mandate is on the hospital to ensure that wrongful deductions are rectified and money returned.
Basalirwa tasked the new Jinja Hospital Director, Dr. Alfred Yayi to streamline the loans taken by his staff and not commit staff outside the known procedures.
In his audit report, Auditor General John Muwanga also noted unauthorised loan deductions in Lira Regional Referral Hospital totalling 190.7 million Shillings from 90 employees that neither had letters of undertaking nor existed in the “active deduction” or the “my approval” reports on the Payroll Deduction Management System (PDMS).
In Hoima, Regional Referral Hospital, the audit report indicates unauthorized loan deductions totaling 54 million Shillings from 9 employees while Soroti Regional Referral Hospital made unauthorized loan deductions totaling 61.94 million from 34 employees.
Under Masaka Regional Referral Hospital, the Auditor General observed that a loan deduction amounting to 2.05 million Shillings relating to one employee- Herbert Ssekajja was not in the approval report on the PDMS.
Muwanga also noted that loan deductions amounting to 20.37 million relating to 8 employees were in the “active deductions” report but not in the approval report of employees, while loan deductions worth 24.9 million relating to 7 employees were in ‘My Approvals” report but did not exist in the “active deductions” report.
“Section 2.1.2 and 2.1.4 of the Service Agreement between the government (Ministry of Public Service) and Uganda Consumer Lenders’ Association/Uganda Bankers’ Association requires a letter of undertaking for each employee before making a reservation on the Payroll Deduction Management System,” reads part of the audit report.
Muwanga also notes that only deductions consented to by employees in writing should be submitted to the Ministry of Public Service for timely payroll processing or as advised by the employer.
He observes that loans not supported by letters of the undertaking could lead to deductions from staff without loans and a lack of assurance to lending institutions which affects the livelihoods of civil servants due to limited access to loan services.