Cult-like Group Frustrating Civil Servants at Foreign Ministry

Parliament on Thursday asked Foreign Affairs Ambassador James Mugume to explain claims of discontent among staff at the ministry.

In August 2011, the Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Committee received at least 42 complaints from a whistle blower who said there was a cult-like group at the ministry that frustrates other workers.

In the letter, the whistle blower states that there are certain reports that need to go to the Minister, but they are blocked by this cult headed by the permanent secretary. It’s alleged that Mugume heads a team that has over the years frustrated the work of state ministers such as Isaac Musumba, Okello Oryem and Asumani Kiyingi.

He adds that the ministry gets many international jobs and scholarships but Mugume allegedly gives them to those who pay huge sums of money to him and his group.

The whistle blower also claims that for any of the staff to be posted to missions abroad for four years, they have to give their first foreign allowance to the Permanent Secretary.

The letter further states that only “cult team” members inspect the missions and never submit the reports yet there is no proper mechanism of reporting for ambassadors.

Joy Ongom, the Lira district woman MP, asked Ambassador Mugume to provide the committee with reports on international jobs and scholarships and who has got it, provide travel reports and explain to the ambassadors how long one should spend at a particular mission.

The letter also adds that President Museveni appointed Dickson Ogwang to Washington as a special envoy on the Lord’s Resistance Army, but when he went he had to sleep on office desks for six months yet the PS was aware. The other people named in Mugume’s group are the undersecretary and the principal accountant at the ministry.

However, Ambassador Mugume described the allegations as ridiculous adding that these are entitlements and he would not take advantage of his long service in foreign affairs. He added that there is a committee that handles the payments and membership is rotational.

He also explains that the accounting officer does not answer to him but to the secretary to the treasury Keith Muhakanizi. The allocation of money in the missions is also handled by Muhakanizi who works with the Navision computer software system. The system is also controlled directly by the accountant general, which leaves Ambassador Mugume with the duty to recommend.

The committee chairman Alex Byarugaba advised Mugume to have an open annual meeting in which all staff are told who is entitled to what and how much. The whistle blower had claimed that there is no facilitation for most of the staff. He also advised that mission heads who do not want to vacate on time should be given strict deadlines within which to vacate with no extensions.

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