OFWONO OPONDO: Public officers; Disobey lawful presidential Directives at their Peril

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Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo
By :
Ofwono Opondo

In the last four months of COVID-19 pandemic, President Yoweri Museveni has caused shake up in important government institutions because of negligence, disobedience, incompetence, connivance and alleged corruption. These institutions are the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). There are others like the KCCA and Uganda police where clean-up is ongoing as the president promised in early 2017. The president is the chief executive accountable to the country, whoever defies his lawful and well-considered directives does so at their own peril.

To avoid possible protracted legal battles and costly compensations, soft power has been used to have troubled officers to seek voluntary retirement, or contracts weren’t renewed. And in doing so, the president is bringing in mature corporate management style in severing relations with problematic managers.

Hitherto praised Doris Akol, fell on blade in March after President Museveni publicly complained that there was rampant corruption and under performance in the tax body. The president accused top URA brass of failure to curb corruption that had festered through the connivance of staff in spite of several warnings.

URA, led by Akol had also failed to effectively implement government directives on digital tax stamp solution, and Rental Tax System leading to massive leakages and failure to meet revenue collection targets for a long time. Akol fell alongside a number of senior URA officials whose fate remains uncertain.

The ever smiling Christine Gguwatudde Kintu, the permanent secretary OPM with two other senior staff fell on the sword at the start of COVID-19 when they were caught allegedly fiddling with figures during the early stages of procurement of relief food items for vulnerable groups in Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono. These are currently before courts of law facing prosecution for graft and causing financial loss to government.

Judy Obitre Gama, the former Executive Director got her scalp bruised when the president in May directed that her contract shouldn’t be renewed on account of gross incompetence and inefficiency in delivering national identity cards even to registered Ugandans. There is widespread pubic complaint that NIRA officials especially at district level demand bribes to issue national ID to respective registered owners. Obitre had either failed or blatantly refused to effect the desired changes to achieve efficiency.

Since the demise of former Internal Affairs Minister Gen. Aronda Nyakairima in 2015, NIRA has been a very sluggish body and yet national IDs are now required in every business registration and transaction such as opening bank accounts and cash withdrawal, telephone and voter registration, tracking tax compliance and fighting crime.

Sam Rwakoojo, the long-serving Secretary and Accounting Officer at the EC whom many opposition politicians had bayed for his blood finally fell this week when the president directed that he hands over within two days.

I spoke to both Rwakoojo and former EC spokesperson Jotham Taremwa but our discussion will remain confidential. At the centre of controversy is alleged disregard to rules and regulations of the procurement of various services. Government had directed that all election materials like registers and ballot papers be printed locally because Uganda has proven capacity, provide employment opportunities to Ugandans and also to save hemorrhage of foreign exchange.

In addition officials had been embroiled in the inconclusive procurement of office and warehouse space where sharing colossal kickbacks was reported to be at the centre of controversies.

The president had pointed out that as a result of COVID-19, it had been proven that Uganda could be self-reliant in producing many consumables and as such every effort should be made to support local and prospective capable businesses. And even where capacity hadn’t been achieved the president had directed government entities to jointly work with industries, businesses and the National Bureau of Standards to achieve the desired qualities.

Opposition maestro Kizza Besigye, Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo among others, should be softly tapping their feet on ground cheerful of Rwakoojo’s ousting although not on their terms.

In this long a drawn-out presidential fights with sharks in government bureaucracy, we should watch out on Bank of Uganda which is also dragging its feet and appears hell bent to continue printing currency notes and other security instruments from outside when government has said they should be printed here because there is now capacity.

BoU, NEMA, NFA, UWA, and UCC have all recently been exposed through many investigations. NEMA has been put on the watch list over wetland destruction, while UCC was exposed in its attempts to undervalue tax in MTN’s licence renewal until President Museveni intervened.

It perhaps serves to remind ourselves that officials in the Immigration department got sacked a while back for among other things they defied the president on printing passports and work permits outside when Uganda had built internal capacity. These officials had struck soft deals with outside companies where kickbacks were paid to them without a trace and wanted the practice to continue for their personal benefits. They had also refused or deliberately frustrated the implementation of e-passport, e-visas and e-work permits.

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The writer, is the Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre

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