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Ombudsman saddled with K74 million rentals debt

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CAUTIONED OMBUDSMAN— Namalomba

The office of the Ombudsman has unpaid rental arrears totalling about K74 million with its landlord, raising fears of eviction

Ombudsman Grace Malera confirmed the development, saying the office survived eviction in March this year.

Speaking to Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament members, who summoned her to respond to queries raised against her office in the 2019-20 Auditor General’s report, Malera said rental arrears were one of the threats hanging on the office of the Ombudsman.

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“Indeed, about K47 million was paid, out of the K121 million which we owed the landlord, but, as you can see, that amount is still minimal and anytime the landlord can think of expelling us.

“We are coming from a background where the offices have been closed about twice and that does affect our work and remains cause for concern,” she said.

Malera, however, said they have communication from the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development that they have been allocated a piece of land where offices will be constructed.

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However, Malera called on Parliament to help the office lobby for resources.

“With that communication [that offices will be constructed], one begins to see a long-term solution.

“But, still, the million-dollar question is: Who is going to fund the investment? We will continue to liaise with the Ministry of Lands and also look for donors that could be interested in helping us resolve this chronic challenge,” Malera said.

On the audit queries, which included lack of support documents on expenditure totalling about K6 million, Malera said, at the time of her appearing before the committee, her office had been cleared by the Auditor General’s office.

She said lack of personnel contributed to the lapse.

Meanwhile, Pac Chairperson Shadric Namalomba has asked the government to look into how it can address challenges the Ombudsman’s office is facing.

He also cautioned Malera and team to lead by example by ensuring that they stick to ethical and accounting principles as they execute their mandate using taxpayers’ money.

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