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EALA receives and adopts committee report on audited accounts / There is need to enhance systems, House resolves

By East African Community (EAC)
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ARUSHA, Tanzania, January 31, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- EALA today resumed debate with the August House debating and approving a crucial Report of the Committee on Accounts. To that effect, the Assembly is reiterating the need for better governance of operations including enhanced supervision by the Council of Ministers, improved systems and capacity building of the Secretariat to strengthen the regional bloc.

The Chairperson of the Accounts Committee, Hon Bernard Mulengani, presented the Report of the Committee on Accounts for the Audited Accounts of the EAC for the period ended June 2010.

The Report encapsulates the audited financial statements of eight reports referred to the Committee for scrutiny. It follows “the laying on the table” of the Report, initially authored by the Audit Commission, by the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers in September 2011.

The Report includes financial statements of the Lake Victoria Basin Commission, Lake Victoria Environment Management Programme II (LVEMP) and the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA). Others are the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) and IUCEA's BIO-EARN and VICRES Initiative projects respectively.

The Report according to Hon Mulengani enumerates a number of areas and is largely qualified (clean). The Report however gives a number of areas that need strengthening across the institutions covered.

On the Audit findings of the consolidated Financial Statements of the EAC for the year ended June 2010, the Report notes the Secretariat had as at time of the Audit not produced the Accounting and Procurement Manuals. However, the Secretary General has since signed the Manuals (with the Council of Ministers approving the same).

Hon Mulengani noted that the internal audit function of the Secretariat was currently understaffed thus underscoring the need to enhance capacity by undertaking recruitment. In addition, Members called for the independence of the Internal Audit department and for the operationalisation of the risk management charter by March 2012.

On investments, the Council of Ministers was urged to approve the policy for proper guidance of investments at the EAC in a bid to effectively manage the additional funds maintained by the EAC in fixed deposits.

The Committee recommended to the Assembly that the Council of Ministers' ensures the EAC improves on and conducts due diligence while handling all EAC financial transactions.

Rising to make contributions on the floor of the House were Hon. Christopher Nakuleu, Hon Dora Byamukama, Hon Augustine C.L Lotodo and Hon Dan Kidega. Others were Hon Jacqueline Muhongayire, Hon Mike Sebalu, Hon Catherine Kimura, Hon Margaret Zziwa and Hon Dr. Odette Nyiramillimo.

During debate, Members urged the EAC Secretariat to regularly produce activity reports and institute mechanisms in place towards releasing Community documents to donors including the storage of vital reports.

Members called on the EAC to streamline internal controls and retirement of imprest in line with the best practices in accounting.

“It is a good thing that the EAC shall now start recruitment for some of the key positions, we need better governance and segregation of duties to manage the resources more efficiently and effectively”, Members stated.

The Assembly further underscored the urgent need for automation of EAC systems. “The EAC needs to be embrace Information Communication Technology (ICT) and all processes involved, in addition all staff should be ICT compliant”, the Members declared.

“The area of implementation and adherence to the recommendations of the House is vital. We have time and again asked for the Ministers (of EAC) to be based in Arusha to offer the necessary guidance and speed up decision making”, it was stated.

On environmental matters, RV Jumuiya, the vessel of the Community shall need to be made operational with the removal/control of the water hyacinth. As it stands today, the vessel remains docked and is a burden to the Community. The move- Members declared, would enable it RV Jumuiya carry out its mandate towards enhancing navigation, research, educational and related activities.

In response, the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Hon Musa Sirma, noted the Council of Ministers' commitment to implementing the decisions arrived at. The Hon Minister enumerated the areas as management and accountability issues, governance as well as environmental mitigation measures to remove the hyacinth problem and staff recruitment among others.

“I want to confirm that Council had in October 2011 in Zanzibar unfrozen the positions which shall now be filled subject to budget and formula laid out” Hon Sirma said adding that enhanced staff capacity would go a long way in improving activities of the EAC.

Hon Sirma said the operationalisation of the Internal Audit Manual, risk management chart strategy and the code of ethics among other areas were now underway.

The Minister said the Secretariat had commenced on the process of establishing the Audit Committee and was keen to establish other relevant positions in the Financial Year 2012/13.

The Council has further directed the Secretariat to undertake a feasibility study on financing options for the EAC, the Minister remarked.

The Minister further assured the House the new EAC Headquarters would be ready for occupation and opened in April 2012. “I confirm the EALA Chamber shall be ready for the last meeting of EALA - 5th Meeting of the 5th Session”, the Minister.

Earlier on, EALA Members were apprised by the EAC Deputy Secretaries General on the progress of projects and programmes of the bloc. The meeting presented an opportunity for Members and the Executives of the Secretariat to exchange ideas on how to espouse and strengthen the Community. The meeting chaired by the Speaker, Rt. Hon Abdirahin Abdi, saw presentations made by Dr. Enos Bukuku (DSG, Planning and Infrastructure), Mr. Jean Claude Nsengiyumva (DSG, Productive and Social Services) and Dr. Julius T. Rotich (DSG, Finance and Administration). Hon Beatrice Kiraso (DSG, Political Federation) sent her apologies.

Parliament continues tomorrow.