On the evening of Thursday, July 15, President Yoweri Museveni realigned his troops in the public service. Some permanent secretaries were retained in their dockets, others moved, others demoted or promoted.
The president also wielded the axe in the shakeup—public service head Dr John Mitala and other seven senior permanent secretaries were not spared.
These include Jane Kibirige (Clerk to Parliament), Christine Guwatudde Kintu (Office of the Prime Minister), Pius Wakabi (Agriculture), Amb Patrick Mugoya (Foreign Affairs), Kivumbi Lutaaya (Vice President’s office), Benon Mutambi (Internal Affairs), and David Obong (Technology and Innovation).
Whereas Museveni said he had retired them in ‘public interest’, sources say, he just preferred to use a soft term, but in reality, he knifed them.
Red Pepper digital is for the first time revealing for the first time why Museveni thought it wise to get rid of these PSs as he starts his 6th term of presidency. That he dimmed them unfit to help him secure Bazzukulus’ future. Sources with the knowledge of what is going on told us that these officials may or may not receive their retirement benefits. And they may be barred from working for the government for ten years.
This website has also learnt that apart from David Obong (Technology and Innovation), the rest, including John Mitala are under investigation. Arrest and possible prosecution has not been ruled out.
Mugoya has been a career diplomat who joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1979. He previously served in Uganda Missions in various countries: Canada, Italy, South Africa, and held various positions at the Ministry Headquarters including Head of the following Departments: Americas and Caribbean, African Union, Protocol and Consular. Some officials Pepper talked to at MOFA were also eager to find out what could have gone wrong given his stellar performance.
For political scientist and retired career diplomat, Harold Acemah, Mugoya didn’t deserve such a sendoff after all the good things he has done. However, according to sources, ‘there’s more to this than meets the eye’ and Mugoya’s candle had to burn out two weeks ago after a lot of undesirable things happened at MOFA and the appointing authority was not pleased. It is not clear whether Mugoya was directly involved, not, or had knowledge.
Sources told us that in a race to save his job, he travelled to Kyankwanzi in April this year during the retreat of new NRM MPs to have an audience with President Museveni but his wish was not granted. Sources told us that he was in the company of former foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa and VP Edward Ssekandi—for one reason or another the president did not meet them—they bounced back.
AFRICAN UNION JOB
In February this year, the African Union organized elections to fill positions of the AU Commission chairperson and deputy chairperson and six commissioners. This is the AU’s secretariat and undertakes the day to day activities of the Union. It is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The slot for the deputy chair was this time for East Africa and several candidates expressed interest. Uganda’s Prof Pamela Mbabazi Kasabiiti (chairperson of National Planning Authority) expressed interest. She reportedly started lobbying for support using the ministry of foreign affairs and everything was reportedly going on well until at the last hour when a mysterious letter purportedly authored by President Museveni was sent to the AU Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia curiously guiding them to postpone the elections for a number of reasons which among others included being a Covid pandemic time.
Surprisingly, the letter did not reportedly pass through the right diplomatic channels to reach the AUC secretariat but after all, it reached. Because the letter was late and there was no way the elections could be postponed, the organizers proceeded and undertook to find time and explain their decision to President Museveni thinking that he indeed authored it. Eventually, elections were held and Uganda’s Pamela lost to the Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Rwanda, Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa.
Sources told us that in May, AUC officials who were in Ugandan for Museveni swearing ceremony used the opportunity to apologize to him and also to officially explain why they could not implement his advice contained in the letter. Sources say the president was shocked but his instinct reportedly told him something fishy had happened and he decided to play it cool by telling AUC officials to take it easy.
He then later on reportedly summoned foreign affairs officials to find out the truth given that he had never authored any letter of such kind. Sources say investigations found out that the letter was indeed sent but with Museveni’s alleged forged signature. The probe also found out that foreign affairs officials were under pressure and wanted to buy more time to lobby for the Ugandan candidate for reasons well known to them. It is not clear whether their beaks had been wetted or not to deliver victory. Sources say that incident embarrassed the president and Mugoya had to pay the price.
NAMIBIA, EQUATORIAL GUINEA AND DRC EMBASSIES SAGA
Sources told us that another issue that cost Mugoya his job was the saga involving the purchase of houses to house embassies of Namibia, DRC and Equatorial Guinea in Uganda. For DRC, sources say they have been renting it and wanted to permanently buy it but the process has been full of frustrations reportedly occasioned to them by foreign affairs officials and about Shs1bn has been spent. Museveni was informed and took note.
The Government of Equatorial Guinea is also said to have lost over six hundred thousand United States Dollars ($600,000) in a grossly inflated purchase of their embassy house. According to sources, the Equatorial Guinea government had advanced USD2M (About Shs7bn) for this purpose. However, it is alleged the house ended up costing between USD1.3M to 1.7M. MOFA officials are said to have obtained two hundred fifty thousand United States Dollars ($250,000) in the transaction.
The property in question is a residential building on Plot No. 31 Mackenzie Vale in Kololo. We have also learnt that the title to the property has not yet been transferred to the Embassy and that the Uganda Land Commission, from which the lease was obtained did not give its consent and may not be officially aware of the transaction. The property was sold on 5th February 2021 but the ministry of Foreign Affairs approved the deal on 23rd February which is against the Diplomatic and Consular Property Conventions Act.
URA has also written to the concerned officials to furnish them with all information related to the transaction. Whereas the property was sold at USD1.7 Million, real estate agents say the property’s (in 30 decimals) value is around USD900, 000. Equatorial Guinea has also asked for a full report and the official who handled the transaction on their behalf has also been recalled. Officials at Foreign Affairs were also on spot for issuing a diplomatic letter allowing some officials in a transaction to take cash through Entebbe Airport.
It is, however, the purchase of the Namibia embassy house in Uganda that reportedly sealed Mugoya’s fate with Museveni realizing enough was enough. Namibia has a consulate in Kampala and has been planning to buy a permanent house here with the purpose of establishing an embassy.
They wanted a relatively cheap house even if it required renovation. And in February this year, through MOFA, a house was identified in Kololo behind MultiChoice Uganda. Real estate agents say the house’s value is around Shs1.2bn but the price was inflated to Shs3.6bn. Even when the tripled money was sent, sources say Namibia officials demanded to get the property title and also inspect it but some officials at MOFA were reluctant. The efforts by the inspection team to travel to Uganda were always reportedly hampered as MOFA officials allegedly bought time. We have learnt that an opportunity presented itself in the form of the Museveni swearing-in ceremony in May.
The Namibian president was eager to attend and also use that opportunity with his team to inspect the house and as well report to Museveni the pain his country went through to acquire that house at the hands of MOFA officials. According to sources, MOFA officials were required to send the official invitation to the Namibian president and his entourage but curiously sat on it. It took the intervention of another Uganda envoy to extend the official invitation.
Even after it was sent, sources say there was frustration in travel but eventually they came. Sources say while at Munyonyo, Namibia President Hage Gottfried Geingob and his team briefed Museveni on the frustration they had been subjected to by MOFA officials. Sources say that incident embarrassed the president and Mugoya had to pay the price.
We have also learnt that there are several diplomatic postings in which Mugoya reportedly sanctioned and raised eyebrows–he did not seek the president’s approval. Investigations found out that in doing so, a number of diplomats and some reportedly with questionable character were curiously appointed.
For instance, there is an envoy who was posted to one of the North African countries after diddling an investor about Shs800m with reportedly the knowledge of MOFA officials here in Kampala. The Investor sensing that he was diddled, used Interpol-UK to track this envoy.
The envoy pleaded to be brought to Kampala to settle the issues. They reportedly came and met with the PS and other senior officials involved at the ministry offices. The officials pleaded that instead of arrests and embarrassment, the envoy was to be allowed to pay the Shs800m back. The investor accepted, but payments have allegedly since never materialized. The president, however, learnt about this saga through the investor and grilled Mugoya on how this diplomat was posted in a North Africa country that recently saw its longtime president step down and is currently on trial over a range of sins he committed. Those who attended the meeting realized that Mugoya’s days were numbered.
We have also learnt that some diplomats complained to the president on how their allocated budgets in various embassies were kept on being slashed time by time. And a probe, according to sources, discovered that some money went back to the pockets of individuals at MOFA. Mugoya was also reportedly accused of not being tough on diplomats who misused funds allocated to their embassies among other scandals.
Sources further told us that some diplomats and officials at MOFA had resorted to soliciting money from foreign governments in the name of the Ugandan government, in particular President Museveni. For instance one of the officials at MOFA went to the Cuban government and allegedly requested money assistance claiming that he had been sent by the president. The Cuban government officials reportedly explained that they were reportedly not doing well but managed to get USD500,000 for this official. After some time, Cuban officials would later reach out to the president apologizing for not advancing to him much but promised to do better next time. Museveni was equally shocked but played it cool. He later instituted an investigation only to find out this was the work of some officials at MOFA. The name of a minister whose identity has been withheld for legal reasons was also cited—but this is a story for another day.
M7 SWEARING-IN SAGA
We have also learnt that some foreign guests who were here for Museveni swearing-in ceremony went back complaining about hefty bills they incurred in accommodation and the mess and possible collusion was reportedly traced back to MOFA.
Full details will be in our subsequent publication but this did not please the appointing authority. Pepper digital could not independently verify whether all these happened with the knowledge of Mugoya or not. Involved or not, being the PS, he was the eye of the appointing authority at MOFA and the latter felt betrayed and sending the former packing was the only option.
According to sources, a preliminary report indicates that a lot of dubious transactions and money appropriations took place in the last five years at parliament reportedly under the watch of Kibirige. Knowingly or unknowingly, she reportedly sanctioned them and the appointing authority was not pleased.
As an accounting officer, sources say the appointing authority wondered how she sanctioned Parliament to rent Kingdom Kampala Building to serve as additional office space for some of the MPs at a cost of Shs800m per month, reportedly without the knowledge of the president. And yet she failed to put pressure on Roko construction officials to finish the Parliamentary Building extension and enlargement project which could have saved all this money.
Asked by one of the dailies why he thinks he was dropped, Mutambi was quoted by the Daily Monitor denying any wrongdoing and sought to be told where he fell short to deserve retirement in public interest. “I must be honest to you; I also do not know. All I know about myself is that I had given my best, and was committed to transforming that place [Internal Affairs ministry]. Maybe I shall in future get to know where I fell short.”
We have now learnt that after receiving several reports about what was going on at the ministry of Internal Affairs, Museveni reportedly secretly deployed his blue-eyed girl—names withheld. Her findings warranted Mutambi to be fired, according to sources. The probe found out that a lot of rot was happening in passports issuance and as well handling matters to do with labour externalization which involved a commissioner and an IT personnel at the ministry of Gender who would wake up in the dead of the night to clear people of interest and then forward details to Internal Affairs servers for final clearing.
Passports were issued to whoever wanted—foreigner or not—and many external labour firms were also cleared. Billions and billions reportedly exchanged hands. To make matters worse this prompted the U.S. to raise a red flag on Uganda as far as human trafficking was concerned. Involved or not, being the PS, he was the eye of the appointing authority at the ministry and the latter felt betrayed and sending the former packing was the only option.
She is on trial in the Anti-corruption court over the Covid food relief procurement saga. However, her sacking involves the handling of the Africa Peer review Mechanism (APRM) secretariat in Uganda under the office of the Prime Minister.
The Mechanism (APRM) started in 2003 of which Uganda is a member is a mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the African Union (AU) for sharing experiences, reinforcing best practices, identifying deficiencies, and assessing capacity-building needs to foster policies, standards and practices that lead to political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental economic integration. It was inspired by the desire to find “African solutions to African problems”.
It was supposed to signify a new approach to politics in Africa: a voluntary, non-adversarial peer-review that would lead to improvements in governance. States that are party to the peer review mechanism develop self-assessment reports, which are then combined with reviews produced by experts from other African countries. The reviews are then tabled and discussed by heads of state of member countries.
Finally, the reviewed country embarks on implementing its national programme of action to address any governance shortcomings that were identified. These are not just government reviews: they focus on the country as a whole. Civil society and the private sector are involved in putting together the national self-assessment. For Uganda’s case, sources say there was a lot of mismanagement and funds could not be accounted for properly and Guwatudde being the PS had to find answers. To make matters worse, it was also discovered that there was no report for 2020 and there are doubts whether the one for 2021 expected next month (August) is ready.
The reason is that there were no funds to facilitate the exercise of preparing these reports and Guwatudde’s answers were reportedly not satisfactory yet this is an important area that the NRM government can’t ignore. We have further learnt that there were a lot of undesirable things happening at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Secretariat at the Office of the Prime Minister, Uganda and somehow Guwatudde ended up in the mix.
Sources say fellow member states started complaining. And this being one area where the appointing authority has interest since it gives a good image of the progress of the country after Obote and Amin days, Guwatudde was headed for trouble. The name of Albert Byamugisha, the Senior Technical Adviser and Head of the National SDG Secretariat and also UBOS board chairperson has also been mentioned—this is, however, a story for another day.
His crime was that he was reportedly not a team player and officials at MAAIF including Minister Helen Andoa found it difficult working with him. And because of this, things were not moving at the ministry, aware that Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, employing 70% of the population, and contributing half of Uganda’s export earnings and a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Sources also told us that donors were no longer comfortable working with him. The reason is that there were unclear accountabilities regarding the multibillion projects they are funding at MAAIF and yet he was the accounting officer.
Sources say, actually the EU requested his axing to save their money from being abused. We have learnt that the former Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda reportedly first rooted for his axing in September 2019 but survived. Reports indicate that on top of unclear accountabilities, Wakabi would be harsh and sometimes use bad words with an ‘I don’t care attitude’ on foreign dignitaries who used to come to Uganda to check on these projects.
The eight donor-funded projects include the Market-Oriented and Environmentally Sustainable Beef Meat Industry project (MOBIP); The Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP); Agricultural Value Chain Development Project; The Uganda Multi-Sectoral Food Security and Nutrition project (UMFSNP); The banana livelihood Diversification project; The Regional Pastoral Livelihoods Resilience Project (RPLRP); Meat Export Support Services Project; Promotion of Rice Development Project 2; and National Oil Palm Project (NOPP).
KIVUMBI & OBONG
Our sources could not obtain Kivumbi’s file which contains preliminary findings that were relied on to have him sacked by press time but hastened to add that he is also under investigation with plans of prosecuting him. For elderly Obong, he has been allowed to retire.
Sources told us that the rot at the ministry of Science involved ‘almost everyone and not just Obong. That some things even happened without his knowledge yet he was the PS. The only solution, according to sources, was to scrap the ministry and instead put it under Statehouse for proper monitoring because the thieving there was reportedly unheard of in Uganda.