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Probe Implicates Four Kyambogo University Staff in Transcripts Scam

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An Adhoc committee set up by the university in 2018 to investigate the fraud has recommended disciplinary action against the officers who allegedly mismanagement the procurement process that led to the direct loss of Shillings 128.5million.
20 Feb 2020 21:32
Students walk from the Kyambogo University Senate Building
Four top officials of Kyambogo University are in trouble for causing financial loss in a fraudulent academic transcript and certificate procurement deal.  

They are Charles Okello, the University Secretary, Dr. John Okuonzi, the Director Directorate of ICT Support (DICTS), Dr. Peter Obanda, a senior lecturer and former head of the Contracts Committee and Richard Muhanguzi, the Procurement officer.

Also implicated in the scam is the late Dr. Peter Okello, the former Acting Kyambogo University Academic Registrar. An Adhoc committee set up by the university in 2018 to investigate the fraud has recommended disciplinary action against the officers who allegedly mismanagement the procurement process that led to the direct loss of Shillings 128.5million.    

The group is said to have colluded in the procurement and subsequent acquisition of 20,000 pieces of “papers” for transcripts and 15,000 pieces of “papers” for certificates from Transpaper (U) Limited at over Shillings 330million.    

The Nkrumah Road based company that deals in office equipment, stationary and consumables, Paper, paper products and packaging materials charged Kyambogo University Shillings 7,500 for each transcript paper totaling to Shillings  150Million. The company also supplied each piece of certificate paper at Shilling 12,000 totaling to Shillings 180Million.  

The papers were meant for printing academic transcripts and certificates for the 2017 graduates. The Professor Benon Basheka-led Probe committee observed that both the papers supplied for the transcript and the certificates were the same despite the difference in the unit price charged by the supplier. 

Kyambogo University Council sanctioned the probe committee at its 78th sitting of November 12, 2018 following a series of complaints and rumors of fraudulent procurements by a section of staff.  The committee comprised Aloysius Ivan Kalanzi, Fredrick Sentomero, Dr. Florence Bakibinga Sajjabi and Dr. Joseph Okecho. 

A comparative cost analysis of transcripts and certificates by other prequalified service providers show that Kyambogo officials settled for the highest bidder in the deal. For instance, a transcript paper from Graphics System Limited cost Shillings 7,080 and Shillings 5,959 for a certificate, which would make a total of Shillings 230million. 

Another firm Corporate Gifts Ltd quoted Shillings. 6,077 for a single transcript paper and Shillings 6,077 for a certificate paper, which would bring an overall total of Shillings 212.6million, had the company taken the deal. Smith & Ouzman, a UK-based Security printing firm that had been supplying certificates and transcripts at Kyambogo University for years quoted Shillings. 5,111 as a unit cost of a transcript paper and Shillings 6,565 for the certificate paper. This would bring the total to Shillings 200.7million.  

The committee, supported by Daniel Nangalama, the University Chief Auditor, Alex Kizito, a Senior Internal Auditor and Lydia Ssekakoni unearthed fraud that implicated a chain of university officials. The highly guarded report was prepared for the University Council’s discussion and action at the close of 2019.  

URN accessed a copy of the 93-page report that confirms the procurement was not properly initiated and didn’t receive sufficient participation of the members of the user unit, the academic registrar.  The report found that the implicated university officials never demonstrated commitment to ethics and protection of the university image.     

“The University Managers and supervisors never ensured that University activities and processes under their jurisdiction were properly supervised, monitored and controlled in order to achieve procedural compliance, high productivity and eliminate process errors and fraudulent schemes,” reads the report in part. 

 

URN has established that there were huge errors printed on the university’s academic transcripts arising out of procedural flaws, which the probe committee unanimously, says grossly impacted the university reputation, stakeholder concerns, market confidence and financial loss.  

The staff apparently utilized regulation 7(2) (a) of the Contracts Act 2014 which; “allows the accounting officer to sign a contract without a decision of Contracts Committee, where the Contracts Committee is unable to meet.”    

Dr. John Okuonzi (Director ICT)

According to the report, Dr. Okuonzi, was accountable for causing financial loss by providing wrong information and irregularly changing the specifications without approval of Senate, the University’s Chief Academic Organ.  The report implicates him for having acted negligently as a procurement manager, when he cleared the paper quality, and thus advertently usurped the role of the process owners.    

“Dr. John Okuonzi was at the center of the procurement and processing of transcripts and certificates for the 2017 graduates right from initiation to its end. He usurped the powers and roles of other players in the process, thus leaving them to operate at the peripheral of their core mandates,” reads the report in part.  

The report indicates that during Dr. Okuonzi’s interface with the probe committee, he disclosed that his actions were driven by the desire for innovation and research agenda, and that the mistakes were part of innovation.       

The committee observed that Dr. Okuonzi caused financial loss after he superintended the ICT operations and outsourced printing services, single handedly, although he claimed, there was too much pressure to produce transcripts within too short a time.  The probe team however insists that Dr. Okuonzi should take responsibility, since he isolated himself from the rest of the key players mandated by law in the processes he handled.  

"The ICT operations and printing experienced technical lapses and system errors leading to issues like; the printing of the same date of birth, failed to mark “RT” [for Retake] against the papers that had been retaken, printing of certificate when the toner was very low and in some cases spilling and running of toner while printing certificates and transcripts. This printing was not done in a professional manner,” says report.     

Richard Muhanguzi (Procurement Officer)     

The Senior Procurement Officer is also implicated in the collusion for fraud for his alleged failure to scrutinise and instruct his junior officers to crosscheck the details in Dr. Okuonzi’s justification letter for the supply firm. “If he did, the deceitful information would have been detected and proper advice rendered to the accounting officer,” reads the report.     

Muhanguzi, buy nature of his position as the head of the Procurement Disposal Unit of the University is the custodian and advisor in regards to the University’s procurement.  The Probe team however rules him as having “acted incompetently and negligently when he acted on the justification letter from Dr. John Okuonzi.” 

The report contends that Muhanguzi failed to do a cost analysis of the firms, failed to prepare bidding documents and awarded the contract for supply of the papers before preparation of Local Purchase Order (L.P.O) and that he equally failed to provide professional advice to the accounting office as mandated to enable him make correct decisions.    

  

“…this being a procurement of ‘Paper’ he [Muhanguzi] ought to have examined what paper and what is special about the paper and why there was a single supplier, since paper is the one of the supplies routinely procured by entities,” reads in part the report.    

Adding that; “As a convener of Contracts Committee, he failed to prepare appropriate documentation or remind the Chairperson of the Contracts Committee to call to table the procurement paper during the contract committee sittings that were convened during the period under review.”  

Dr Peter Obanda (Contracts Committee Chairperson)  

The probe team describes Dr. Obanda’s role as having been a gatekeeper over the procurement processes given that all major decisions revolved around him as chairperson of the committee before execution.  

The committee faulted him of solely relying on the procurement officer and director ICT, yet he had been the head of contracts committee for years, with the requisite experience to permit him have judgment as a gatekeeper; “to soberly consider procurement matters without pressure and other competing interests in order to do his work independently.”  

The report faults him of letting his guard down by failing to ask important questions during the process. “The committee finds him culpable since he failed to bring this procurement subject to the Contracts Committee meetings. …exceeded his mandate and completed the procurement process in contravention of the instrument appointing him as a chairperson without sufficient evaluation and scrutiny of the procurement by full contracts committee,” says report.  

Charles Okello (University Secretary)

This senior member of Management in charge of safeguarding the University’s Assets was implicated for having neglected his role when he approved the procurement form requests that had incomplete information about the availability of funds and subsequently communicated the award of contract.  

It is said Okello cleared the L.P.O on November 30, 2017 and communicated to service provider Transpaper (U) Ltd without a properly documented decision of the Contracts Committee and approval of the Solicitor General.  

The accounting officer on the same day, November 30, 2017 appointed Peter Okello (the late, former Academic Registrar) and Dr. John Okuonzi as contract managers for the supply of the consumables on which to print the transcripts and certificates.  

The committee however observes that the said decision to procure the transcript papers occurred, six months after reporting on duty and was initially involved in handover procedures, before settling in to perform his duties fully as the accounting officer.