Uganda netball in the mire over missing funds

Uganda in action against Malawi at the 2021 Pent Series. File photo

The Uganda Public Accounts Committee (central government) has kicked off another probe into the affairs of the Uganda Netball Federation (UNF) regarding unaccounted expenditure of Shs139,3 million (about N$718,400) during a 2021 trip to Namibia.

This query arises from the Ugandan auditor general’s report for the 2020/2021 financial year noting that the National Council of Sports (NCS) disbursed Shs186 million (N$961 000) to UNF for preparation and participation of the She-Cranes in the 2021 Pent Series and the Africa Netball Championship, respectively, held in Namibia between 29 October and 17 November 2021.

Of the Shs186 million disbursed, Shs139,3 million was meant for accommodation of the 27-members, while Shs9,6 million (N$50 000) was meant for visa fees, Shs6,7 million (N$35 000) for Covid-19 tests, Shs1,7 million (N$8 800) for medical tests, Shs5,3 million (N$27 400) for participation fees, Shs13,5 million (N$70 000) for players’ allowances and Shs10 million (N$52 000) for team kits.

However, according to the auditor general’s report, a review of the invitation letter from Netball Namibia revealed that accommodation costs while in Namibia were to be fully covered by the hosts [Namibia].

During the committee probe on Monday, the members of parliament noted that it was fraudulent for the netball federation to present receipts worth Shs139,3 million in respect of accommodation from Safari Hotels Namibia, yet the item was reportedly paid for by the host country.

“According to what is on record, accommodation was supposed to be provided by the host. UNF and NCS have presented accountability indicating that they had receipts for accommodation. So, we need to know – was accommodation provided by the host or not? If so, where are the documents?” said committee deputy chairperson Asuman Basalirwa.

Netball Namibia president Rebecca Goagoses recently said they “informed Uganda NCS that we only paid accommodation for the Pent Series”.

NCS general secretary Bernard Patrick Ogwel said the disbursement of the funds for the Namibia trip was based on a requisition formally communicated to them by UNF president Sarah Kityo.

“The requisition had the relevant documents which included an invoice from Safari Hotels Namibia of US$39,033 equivalent to Shs139 million. Accountability documents including vouchers were submitted by UNF and we received it and forwarded to relevant committees,” Ogwel said, adding that the council did not know that the Namibian government had taken care of part of the costs until they received a petition from some UNF officials who were suspended by the federation president.

“People who were suspended by the president [Kityo] provided additional information and we noted that the original letter sent from Namibia was actually not forwarded to us, and what was forwarded to us did not provide the sponsorship by the Namibian government,” Dr Ogwel said.

To support his argument, Ogwel tabled to the committee all the accountability documents from the federation, including the invoices, vouchers and receipts on the Shs139 million expenditure.

In response, Kityo refuted reports that the Namibian government fully or partially covered 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. This is a 2021 audit query and by now someone from NCS or the ministry of education should have travelled to Namibia on a fact-finding mission,” she said.

Kityo also denied most of the documents submitted by Ogwel saying there was a witch hunt in terms of accountability of the Uganda Netball Federation.

Basalirwa said the contested documents will be subjected to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and handwriting experts to rule out any cases of forgery.

On 11 May, the committee, while probing the NCS, discovered loopholes in the accountability of Shs100 million allocated to UNF in the 2021/2022 financial year for the International Male Netball Championship in South Africa to facilitate the preparation of Ugandan men’s netball team, the Rock, to participate in the championship in South Africa in September 2021.

Following the discovery, the committee handed Kityo, Richard Muhumuza (UNF vice president) and Aidah Nambusi (UNF treasurer) to the Parliament Police Criminal Investigation Department for further management.

Both Muhumuza and Nambusi pointed fingers at their president for allegedly diverting a huge chunk of the money for her personal use at the expense of the planned activities. -APO

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