Amisom on the spot over errors, double payments

The internal operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia have come under scrutiny after an audit report flagged payments to soldiers no longer serving the mission, double payments and faulty personal information, pointing to unreliable record keeping and weak controls in the Mission’s system of accountability.

The leaked report by Mauritian audit firm PwC Associates Ltd cites instances between 2016 and 2018 where multiple missing pieces of information made it difficult for the Mission to account for funds. In one instance in December 2016, Amisom may have lost more than $24,000 in payments made to excess troops for every contingent, a violation of the African Union’s own standard operating procedures.

For example, the report lists five soldiers from the UPDF, who were possibly on the payroll one month paid after they completed their Amisom service. These five arrived on varied dates between January 14 and March 9, 2015 and all departed on March 28, 2016, as per the flight manifest.

Amisom which has been in Somalia for the past 13 years includes troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi. Soldiers serve for one year which may be extended by a few months or cut short depending on the situation and the financial operations. But PwC says record of their movement, entry and exit, payments and actual names of those who get paid and the period they are paid may be unreliable based on sampled incidents for the two years Amisom troops were being paid by the European Union. There was no detailed investigation of the structures of Amisom.

In one finding, two Burundian soldiers had been listed as four different persons, assigned different Amisom force numbers, even though they had four passports issued by the Burundian government with two identical numbers. They all received separate salaries and the totals paid to the Burundian government for onward transmission to their accounts.

In another, a Kenyan soldier listed as missing in action received a salary for more than six months, beyond the usual procedure of stopping it. There were also cases where Kenyan troops had similar next of kin details even though they were unrelated. In another, some Ethiopian troops who had not yet reported to Somalia were shown as listed on payrolls several months earlier.

Duplication of payment

“We cannot rule out duplication of payments, especially in the instances where multiple fields in the Nominal Rolls appear duplicated.” Amisom should consider recovering the allowances paid to contingents that had exceeded their authorised strength,” PwC recommends.

Amisom did not immediately respond to an inquiry by The EastAfrican on whether there have been any safeguards put in place since 2018.

The head of Mission, Francisco Madeira, explained to the auditors that the actual payments were often settled only when troops actually arrive in Somalia and said the force numbers given by the Mission is a safety valve as it cannot be given to troops who haven’t arrived. Auditors did find that sometimes records submitted by troop contributing countries may be delayed or contain errors such as one case where an injured Ethiopian soldier was wrongly listed as dead. Auditors said this was indicative of weak controls.

“Moving forward, the African Union Commission may need to consider strengthening controls around checking for duplicate entries in the Nominal Rolls. Further, the Commission may need to consider implementing a system where they receive accountability statements in formats that are easier to review such as in soft copy files.

AUC should also consider undertaking an independent review of the accountability statements and reconciling them to the troop data in the Nominal Rolls.” The findings at Amisom were part of a wider review of systems of the AUC which PwC was assigned to look into in 2020.

The firm found that the African Union Commission and its key departments and regional offices suffer from duplication of payments, unexplained expenditure, payments from wrong accounts, overpayments and recruitments that did not follow due process and merit as well as records that could not be relied on for being stale, incomplete, missing or duplicated.

The report which was submitted to the African Union sub-committee of the Permanent Representatives in charge of audit is a result of a recommendation by the Board of External Auditors at the AU in 2016 to help clean up AU systems and improve efficiency and transparency.

Source: The East African