By Mulengera Reporters
To his credit, the Ministry of Local Government (MLOG) PS Ben Kumumanya on Friday gathered all Chief Administrative Officers for their quarterly meeting. As always, venue was Hotel Africana and the attendance was very impressive. People generally kept time with Kumumanya and State Minister Jennifer Namuyangu arriving moments before 9 o’clock for the meeting to begin. The PS told the CAOs this quarterly meeting was uniquely important being it’s the very last one in the FY2018/2019.
But notwithstanding the enthusiasm exhibited by Namuyangu, Kumumanya and their ministry officials, the participants seemed laid back a lot. And lukewarmness and a little bit of fatigue was written all over their faces-and Kumumanya (renowned for his militaristic approach) noticed the indifference on their faces. In this news article, we highlight some of the behind-the-scenes sleazy/trivial moments that characterized the daylong meeting.
MC started off well asking all to stand up to honor anthems but forgot to call for opening prayers. On being asked to sit after the anthems, the audience chorused “no prayers” prompting the MC to call for a reverend to step forward and lead the way. On seeing nobody was stepping forward, Kiboga RDC Sarah Karungi matched forward to do the needful. Saying this was appropriate this being the holy month of Ramadhan, the ever veiled Sarah Karungi prayed in Arabic causing deafening silence in the room as she called on Allah to bestow His blessings on everyone in the room.
After the prayer, Kumumanya (who sat on the high table) realized his CAOs and Town Clerks weren’t sitting properly. He specifically protested why they jammed back seats leaving the two front rows empty. He directed those sitting at the back move in front, a plea the MC kept repeating. The CAOs didn’t move. They looked at each other as if they hadn’t heard anything. This prompted Kumumanya to resume the microphone calling out names one by one. To his credit, he is good at knowing CAOs by names and the districts they represent. CAOs must be big-headed fellows and not easy to police. That aspect alone cost the PS close to 30 minutes as they kept moving forward reluctantly. PS had to specifically call out the CAO for Bunyangabu, Iganga, Kasanda and Bugweri. “Please everybody come this way. Let’s sit in front and have effective interaction,” he said as they remained seated, looking on indifferently. “Unless you don’t know what the word in front means…The front row is here where CAO Ibanda is seated. Let’s do this very fast.”
Kumumanya then briefly ran through what would be discussed-regulatory framework for broadcasting, CAOs’ supervisory role in the construction of Seed Schools and Health Center 4s. The other area was improving CAOs’ role in effective implementation of Gender Ministry programs like Youth Livelihood Program and Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Program (UWEP).
Another satirical moment came during personal introductions which Kumumanya insisted on for people to know their neighbors. This session is what Bugiri CAO Ezavaku Kazimiro used to showcase his good sense of humor. “Mr. PS and all colleagues present, I’m the embattled CAO Bugiri,” he humorously said causing prolonged laughter. Whereas visitors didn’t understand much, fellow CAOs (who Kumumanya keeps closely interacting through a whatsapp forum) knew the embattledness the man was talking about. “He was sometime back impersonated on social media when someone produced a letter purporting to be him. The letter was attacking his own LC5 Chairman with whom they have been having cold war. It wasn’t easy and my colleague [Bugiri CAO] has gone through a lot and that’s why we call him the most embattled CAO,” an elderly CAO seated next to Mulengera news explained on seeing journalists getting confused and unable to follow in the prolonged laughter.
Once the laugher was done, Kumumanya grabbed the opportunity to caution CAOs against open confrontation with LC5 bosses and other elected leaders in the districts. “Don’t openly say I have refused Mr. Chairman. Find more decent language even if what he says is overtly illegal. Just say I will wish to consult the [MLOG] headquarters first for proper guidance and then don’t act as instructed,” counseled Kumumanya whose parental approach is part of the reason his CAOs like him very much.
Namuyangu moments later caused more laughter when (upon coming under a lot of pressure to increase the CAOs’ salaries from Shs1.7m to Shs13.8m) she said she wants to leave “as PS can ably handle the rest of the questions.” There was sarcastic laughter with many feeling she hadn’t adequately answered pay rise-related concerns. “I’m rushing for a meeting at OPM going to be chaired by Gen Moses Ali who never tolerates late coming. I can’t afford annoying him because he is very strict and after that I will be going to a meeting at NEMA,” she said on seeing more hands going up to protest her inability to give detailed answers to Dunstan Balaba’s question calling for pay rise. The PS then came to her rescue saying “the Minister is very busy because last night she returned from Sembabule.” Kumumanya said even himself has been in many engagements and sacrificed a lot not to miss Friday meeting because on Thursday he was in Fort Portal with the President. During the subsequent plenary discussions, CAO Bukwo causes more laughter when he openly wishes that the new YLP implementation mechanism (excluding CAOs) ends in total failure. He says CAOs have falsely been accused yet the original mess in YLP was caused by shady technocrats at the Gender Ministry who would falsify beneficiary lists.
Later on Kumumanya hilariously takes on another CAO who criticized the Ministry headquarters for failing to induct new CAOs. “What’s so special about induction? I told you we don’t have money and if we are all serious let’s give induction to our new colleagues. What for example prevents a CAO from inducting his newly recruited deputy?” Saying he is tired of endless lamenting, the PS says there is need to improvise because government doesn’t readily have money for everything. He says once people are keen one can even do self-induction by reading a lot and listening to relevant media programs on radio and TV. This point is later settled by Namuyangu enumerating the 37, 17 and 27 districts where new leaders have been inducted using funds from US and Dutch governments. She says even the remaining 47 districts will have their induction-and Kumumanya stresses most likely before end of this FY. It’s finally agreed induction is very important because without appreciating each other’s roles, wars between political and technical leaders can never end.
Stressing the vitality of induction, Namuyangu tasks CAOs in mother districts to volunteer and give some induction to colleagues moving to pioneer the 7 new districts becoming effective on 1st July 2019. She enumerates these as Obongi, Kazo, Rwampara, Madi Okolo & Kalanga. Namuyangu says besides smoothening the transition for the new districts, CAOs in mother districts must help in ensuring food security, elimination of medics’ teachers and leaners’ absenteeism. She also tasked CAOs to support broader government policy on environmental conservation by enforcing the ban on charcoal burning which she said was a growing menace mostly orchestrated in districts upcountry.
Charles Magumba the TC Entebbe Municipality supported ban on charcoal burning and suggested revision of the Physical Planning Act to make it mandatory for all apartment and rental residential property developers to install LPG cooking facilities on every housing unit.
He said this would prevent tenants from using charcoal. And once the market declines, charcoal burners would gradually lose interest and give up, he said. Saying his research shows Kampala alone uses 6m bags of charcoal annually (costing 600bn in environmental degradation), wealthy Magumba said the physical planning laws should criminalize use of charcoal on all swanky apartments in neighborhoods like Kiira. He said there is a lot CAOs can do once they are legally empowered. “Take this example: out of the money we give schools under capitation grants, Shs30m per term goes into buying firewood. Why don’t we make it mandatory for schools to use gas instead of firewood because with each 13kg LPG Gas Container going at Shs160,000; the Shs30m we give each school per term can be enough to put them on gas as opposed to fire wood.” He said it’s possible for the entire country to be forced to turn to gas so that especially urban households begin monthly spending on gas the way the spend on Yaka. Saying these are very good ideas, PS Kumumanya urged Magumba to identify like-minded CAOs and they condense their views into a paper that can feed into policy formulation by government. He said this was better than “mere lamentation without giving any alternatives.” He said CAOs are part of government and should always be problem solvers rather lamenting all the time. He said Magumba should be emulated. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).