Mafia at play as Kaggwa faces uphill task to retain UCC ED job

BY PEPPER INTELLIGENCE UNIT

The juicy Executive Director job of the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is up for grabs.

It fell vacant in 2020 when Eng.Godfrey Mutabaazi contract expired.

Since then Eng.Irene Ssewankambo Kaggwa has been holding the fort in acting capacity.

She had been hoping against hope to be confirmed substantively, but the Prof. Dorothy Okello UCC led Board had other plans—the job was advertised in September.

This means she has to compete with other interested Ugandans—both at UCC and outside —who according to insiders are about ten and some are sponsored by the city mafia.

According to information obtained, it will be an uphill task for Irene to retain the ED job substantively.

Why? The primary mandate of UCC is to regulate the Communications sector, which includes Telecommunications, Broadcasting, radio communication, postal communications, data communication and infrastructure.

This sector has various stakeholders who must tow the government’s line in terms of policy and regulation.

We are told in the last three years, Kaggwa has been battling some stakeholders (owners of radio & TV stations) who have been in the habit of operating outside the rule book.

These stations belong to mostly politicians and they have not been paying government taxes, license fees among other regulatory obligations.

Yet at the same time they have been receiving business and competing with those that are compliant.

Compliant stakeholders have been complaining about this and the blame has been on UCC’s Kaggwa for not acting tough on the so called untouchable stations with mafia behind.

These now feel there should be a new ED with a thick skin to take head on the untouchables.

Ironically, to crack a whip on such, UCC has in the past been closing non-compliant radio and TV stations.

These non-compliant stakeholders have not taken it lightly and are reportedly also now out to crash her.

Some Ugandans also accuse Kaggwa of not doing enough to reign in Telecom giants when it comes to issues of data fraud, call networks, drops calls, and others. This is despite all the interventions and improvements realised by the Kaggwa led UCC in the last three years.

There are voices now calling for a new ED who can act tough against alleged exploitative Telecoms and equally broadcasters like MultiChoice, but such, according to analysts, are based on a lack of understanding of the market and the underlying technical aspects of this scientific industry.

A section of Ugandans feel social media platform-Facebook should have been unblocked by now and all punches go to Kaggwa.

Whereas there are real nitty-gritty issues of statecraft in nature to sort out, observers opine that since Kaggwa has been in UCC for almost her entire working life from the bottom of the organisation to the top, she needs to be veiled against mafia and be allowed to run the show without undue influence.

“The new broom sweeps better but the old one knows all corners,” so goes the adage.

KAGGWA TICKS ALL BOXES

As Kaggwa’s almost four years of acting tenure at UCC helm comes to an end, a lot has been achieved under her administration.

According to the various UCC publications, the coverage of internet services has been expanded to reach more than 80% of the population with  Telephone subscriptions at 34.2million while total internet subscriptions stands at 26.9million.

The Kaggwa led UCC has made notable efforts to increase broadband use across all segments of society with projects such as the distribution of over 10,000 solar powered smart phones from ENGO holding with 6 months data to low income households in the poorest villages across the country. They have so far provided ICT training to 11800 farmers, teachers; 7540 mechanics, hairdressers, carpenters & other MSMEs; persons with hearing impairment, 5800 women, 500 elderly persons and 11000 youth. Her reign also saw a major drop in mobile internet rates especially for the low level users which attracted the recognition of the United Nations specialised agency for ICTs – the International Telecommunications Union.

When it comes to supporting the national budget, UCC under Kaggwa beats many other revenue generation government agencies. In the 2022/23 financial year, gross revenues from the Telecom sector as a whole stood at 4.87 trillion and the ICT sector GDP contribution stood at 3.0861 trillion.

Despite COVID 19’s impact on the industry, Kaggwa’s enabled environment has seen the industry expand to 363 operational FM stations, 6 TV platforms and 50 courier operators. There are over 73 TV stations or channels as well 74 licensed online data communication operators.

The ICT computer labs project now extends to over 1400 school ICT labs, 184 ICT clubs have been established and three schools have been supported under deaf and blind students’ assistive technology.

The change in style of working at UCC has not gone unnoticed with the sector. You don’t have to worry about being tossed up and down. If you obey the regulator’s rules, you will have peace but otherwise …you will feel the bite.

Let us wait and see how the process ends and continue to hope that it will not cause a U-turn in the sector.

 

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