East Africa audit ends, funds still suspended

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries' independent audit committee has voted to close its ongoing audit of the East Africa Annual (regional) Conference and recommended the continued suspension of funds.

The committee made the decision on Feb. 14 and publicly announced it on Feb. 19. Global Ministries accepted the independent audit committee's recommendation and will continue to suspend all funding to the East Africa Conference, a region of The United Methodist Church.

The independent audit committee determined that "based on extraordinary efforts that Global Ministries' audit committee and our internal auditors have taken over the past several years, we have concluded that current leadership of the East Africa Annual Conference is unable to meet minimum expectations so as to provide reasonable assurance that substantial amounts of funds previously furnished have been used for their intended purposes."

The committee's motion continued: "We therefore find it necessary to close the audit process that was begun in 2009 and to continue our recommendation that all funds for the conference be suspended indefinitely, until such time as the EAAC is prepared to be responsible and establishes acceptable accounting systems, including effective internal controls."

The denomination's mission agency originally suspended funds in August 2012, after three internal audits of the treasury of the East Africa Conference in Kampala, Uganda, between April 2011 and July 2012. The projects in question had received funding in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

The independent audit committee, chaired by Louisville (Ky.) Area Bishop Lindsey Davis, oversees the work of all projects supported by the mission agency. Committee members meet via conference call and in person throughout the year.

The East Africa Episcopal Area includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the new nation of South Sudan.

Davis did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment.

East Africa Bishop Daniel Wandabula also was not available. The news release was issued at 1 a.m. Kampala time.

Ongoing questions

The end of the audit is the latest action after ongoing questions across the denomination about the East Africa Annual Conference's use of funds. Many questions specifically center on the administration of Wandabula.

The Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination's finance agency, recommended Sept. 27 that all United Methodist bodies cut off funds to the East Africa Conference until further notice. The agency's board also filed a formal complaint against Wandabula with the Africa Central Conference College of Bishops regarding concerns about Wandabula's use and accountability of funds.

In an unprecedented move, the finance agency in November set Wandabula's salary at $1,000 per month. Other bishops outside the United States are receiving about $5,500 per month for 2013.

In a separate situation, the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference earlier had asked the United Methodist Judicial Council to review whether funds given to the East Africa Conference were used in accordance with the intent of the donors as required by the 2008 Book of Discipline (Paragraph 258.4).The Western Pennsylvania Conference also asked the council to review the manner in which complaints against the bishop had been handled by the Africa Central Conference College of Bishops.

During a Judicial Council hearing in October, Wandabula defended his actions and provided Judicial Council members with a thick binder of documents related to a church-building project that involved the Pittsburgh East District in Western Pennsylvania.

The Judicial Council deferred a decision on the Western Pennsylvania request until its spring session in April.

Assigning blame

Wandabula has said he blames the decisions of United Methodist church agencies to withhold funds from his conference on a campaign "of malice, mud-slinging, character lynching and insurrection."

In December, the East Africa Conference treasurer Charles Bamutya responded at length to the audits, disputing their findings.

Bishop Peter Weaver, who was then the chair of the Board of Global Ministries independent audit committee, told United Methodist News Service at the time that the committee was "surprised" that the responses from Bamutya that were posted on the East Africa Conference website were "different than what has been received by the audit committee."

*Providing information for this article were Heather Hahn, a United Methodist News Service reporter, and Melissa Hinnen, director of content and public information at the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].

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