By Mulengera Reporters
All isn’t well for Med Kaggwa who is doing his 2nd term as Chairman Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). To begin with, there is growing strife in the organization he leads. The Commissioners, with whom he serves constituting the equivalent of a governing board, are increasingly becoming disillusioned with his leadership and insiders say, the situation can only worsen.
A number of things have happened over time to create such a wedge between Kaggwa and some of the people he works with. Commissioners meetings, which are supposed to sit often under his chairmanship, rarely happen. Since January, the Commissioners (equaling a BoD) have only sat thrice. As BoD, they do oversight on the management headed by the Commission Secretary (Accounting Officer) Patrick Mabiiho Nyakana and comprising of Directors and heads of departments.
Concerned insiders say the stalemate at the BoD level has trickled down to negatively impact on the performance of the management function to the extent that since January, management meetings haven’t been regular as they should. This has left Directors and departmental heads equally disillusioned with each on his/her own.
The stalemate at BoD level has sometimes resulted from procurement-related disagreements. For instance Col Steven Basaliza (a Commissioner) used to chair the Finance Committee which was put on halt after he relentlessly raised questions querying the decision to procure 4 brand new KIA vehicles for Commissioners instead of Pajeros that are easier to manage-and had been decided upon during top Commission meetings.
The Basaliza committee members eventually took a decision totally objecting to the idea of procuring KIAs on grounds they are harder and more expensive to maintain and service. For all this, Basaliza paid a price because even when he was eligible, when his contract ended there was no appetite to renew it. He is now out for months and wasn’t on talking terms with Chairman Kaggwa by the time he left. Basaliza kept pointing at the two now grounded KIAs (one formerly for Commissioner Etima & another for ex-Secretary Gordon Mwesigye) to say he was vindicated. Kaggwa’s supporters among the 280 Commission employees celebrated when the contract ended and Basaliza was required to exit. They have continued to openly brag that nosy Basaliza can never bounce back at UHRC.
In solidarity with the foresight Basaliza exhibited, fellow Commissioners have since refused to be cowed and have continued asking the hard questions including why the accounting officer allowed to be arm-twisted to go for KIAs yet the collective Commission decision was to purchase Pajeros which are considered more comfortable and cheaper to maintain.
Subsequently, the disillusioned Commissioners have boycotted the KIAs saying they are meant for town run and not the hard upcountry field work which they always go for. Each KIA cost Shs300m which the disillusioned Commissioners say is enough to purchase something better and more suited to their work than the KIAs. They have maintained their demand for Pajero vehicles similar to what Chairman Kaggwa and Secretary Nyakana use. This has only widened the wedge between them and Chairman Kaggwa.
Sources say that numerous whistle blower petitions have been reported to the IGG regarding this matter calling on the Inspectorate to investigate financial loss resulting from the purchase of KIAs that everybody knew weren’t fit for the purpose of travelling to conduct circuit hearings upcountry.
The promise that this can be handled administratively have only fermented more strife and suspicion of possible cover up. Yet the Commissioners’ refusal to use the KIAs has significantly hurt UHRC operations by slowing down on the mobility to upcountry areas where Commissioners are required to be to arbitrate human rights violation cases.
Besides the KIAs and absence of regular meetings, the more than Shs1bn construction deal for the Gulu regional office is another aspect on which Commissioners are basing to dispute Med Kaggwa’s leadership.
According to a dossier recently sent to Speaker of Parliament, the Commissioners are wondering why a contractor who properly bided and got awarded the contract to build the Gulu office is having his contract cancelled without any breach. Claiming some rogue-minded power brokers have been reaching out asking him to spend big monies on things unrelated to the contract he won, the aggrieved successful contractor has since resorted to dragging the UHRC/Attorney General to Court. And it’s a matter the UHRC and AG could easily lose resulting into hundreds of millions being paid in damages.
The Gulu regional office block is being constructed using JLOS money and there are fears with escalation of such procurement-related disputes, the donor funders could soon consider halting their support to UHRC because of the many unanswered audit-related queries even on other allocations.
There are also concerns regarding why (for using equal amount of space) UHRC is being made to pay higher rental fees than what is being paid by other tenants like Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) which operates offices on the same Twed Plaza Building along Nakasero road just like UHRC itself. This is something Col Basaliza relentlessly kept raising a red flag about. Even the IG and the Nakalema anti-corruption Unit officials have found this very intriguing and want it comprehensively inquired into.
What they have previously been told by some angry MPs has made some Commissioners even more disgruntled. A group of MPs recently attacked two Commissioners accusing them of spoiling their names by deceptively telling State House intelligence officials that the UHRC had to divert some donor project money to bribe some very outspoken legislators not to block the proposed salary increment of UHRC Commissioners. Just like it was done for others like Judicial Service Commission, UHRC bosses sometime back had their gross pay increased from Shs8m to Shs19m per month. The aggrieved Commissioners are now demanding for an emergency Commission meeting to be convened to have this Parliamentary-related allegation thoroughly discussed and a way forward worked out. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).