HOW & WHY NKERAMIHIGO LOST JUICY POST AT EAC
By Our Reporters
This news website at the beginning of the week reported about efforts to improperly smuggle John Victor Nkeramihigo back into public service moreover in a promoted position of Under Secretary. There was validation when our story was followed by Daily Monitor of Wednesday. Now in the latest update we have established the reasons why Nkeramihigo, who has been earning $6,000 (close to Shs20m) per month as Principal Administrative Officer (PAO) at the EAC Secretariat in Arusha, is all of a sudden desperate to fight for the Under Secretary job whose gross salary is Shs1.8m (coming to Shs1.3m after taxes). We have tried for weeks and still failed to trace Mr. Nkeramihigo for his side of the story and even Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, who stands accused for backing his problematic application to rejoin public service, has so far declined to discuss the matter. We have tried calling him and writing text/whatsapp messages several times but there has been no response so far.
In May 2015, Nkeramihigo learnt of the PAO opportunity at the EAC under the Ugandan quota (member countries share these slots) and wrote a letter seeking permission to take a 5 year leave without pay. The letter was addressed to Deborah Katuramu, PS to the Office of the President, who is charged with recruitment, deployment and promotion of administrative officers in the entire public service. Katuramu dully worked with Adah Muwanga who was Ag.PS Ministry of Public Service and they granted Nkeramihigo’s request. He left when he was at the rank of Principal Administrative Secretary meaning on return he would rejoin the public service at the same rank and not in a promoted capacity as the big people at OPM have been trying to get him do. That is the mandatory way of doing things as provided for in the government standing orders governing public service. In C-c, the Public Service Standing Orders define leave without pay and stipulate who qualifies for it as well as its implications. In C-c(8) it says: “A public officer shall rejoin the service on the grade applicable at the time his or her leave without pay was granted. In all cases where leave without pay is granted to an officer on an incremental salary scale, the salary increments must be deferred by the period of leave without pay.” In April 2016, the office of the president was notified by Public Service Commission of the existence of vacant positions for Under Secretary. These are at Ministries like that of Energy and others and when this was internally advertised, Nkeramihigo who was supposed to be just completing his first year in Arusha, eventually found himself on the list of shortlisted candidates. Technocrats who are furiously opposed to the smuggling of his name onto the list are led by Deborah Katuramu and Salome Nyamungu who is a commissioner at the Public Service ministry. They have both resisted political pressure from the OPM Building and have even put their objections in writing. They are giving a number of reasons including the fact that Nkeramihigo’s application was smuggled into the process long after the stipulated deadline had passed (see our January 22nd story by typing Nkeramihigo in our search bar for all the details). We have since established why Nkeramihigo had to become so desperate to this extent. He is naturally a very belligerent confrontational person and while in Arusha on duty he went physical with one of the EAC Secretariat drivers. “It became a very serious matter and if he didn’t have diplomatic immunity, he would now be on trial. The Tanzanian government is greatly protective of its citizens especially those serving foreigners. The contract had to be terminated and Nkeramihigo had to return to Uganda prematurely and on return he reached out to his godfathers in politics who began stampeding him on the process that was already underway,” reliable sources disclosed to us.
NOT FIRST TIME:
This isn’t the first time Nkeramihigo is having confrontational moments in his career life. He was one time posted as Principal Administrative Secretary (PAS) at the Education Ministry but his stay was short-lived after then PS FX Lubanga protested to Teckla Kinalwa begging her to take him away. Lubanga was concerned that Nkeramihigo, who had just joined the ministry, was failing to get on along with fellow technocrats in the Ministry. “He may be experienced and hard working but has a very big problem when it comes to interpersonal skills. This is why everybody is up in arms against efforts to smuggle him onto the new Under Secretary list,” said a source adding that even his original mentor Pius Bigirimana fell out with him at OPM over similar concerns. As a newly recruited PAS in mid 2000s, Nkeramihigo was posted at Ministry of Health from where Bigirimana who was PS at OPM sought for him and Teckla Kinalwa, who was Secretary to office of the President, granted his wish. But they fell out shortly after with Bigirimana complaining that Nkeramihigo was conniving with other technocrats to sideline him and sign official correspondences without seeking his views first. “Even when the PS was in office, things would be signed as if he was away and this is why he developed irreconcilable differences with Nkeramihigo whom he felt was working with other technocrats to undermine his authority,” said a source. Even when all his known phones are permanently off, Nkeramihigo is said to be living quietly in Kampala as he waits for his luck to improperly re-join the service as Under Secretary. But there are fears the other aggrieved technocrats who applied for the same jobs are prepared to challenge the process by petitioning either High Court under the Judicial Review (challenging the impropriety of the procedure followed) or by petitioning IGG Irene Mulyagonja calling on her to investigate the whole saga.
Said to be in his 50s, John Victor Nkeramihigo started out in the 1990s as an employee of Kamuli district local government. He was among the civil servants who pioneered decentralization in the mid 1990s. In Kamuli he served as Deputy Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and Karoli Baligeya (RIP) was his LC5 Chairman. Years later the Kamuli District Service Commission (DSC), which then had powers over the CAO’s recruitment, elevated him to Ag CAO. He didn’t have good PR with colleagues. Baligeya was assigned to speak to him to change but this didn’t happen. Instead Nkeramihigo took it as if Baligeya hated him personally. He eventually disappeared from work in a manner that some say amounted to abscondment which has very severe implications to one’s career in civil service. Abscondment, once properly established, makes one automatically cease to be a civil servant. However, Nkeramihigo luckily escaped that turmoil when one of the subsequent leaders in Kamuli (names withheld) wrote him a letter falsely certifying that it wasn’t abscondment but he was merely away from his work station having been granted leave by his supervisors. So for the time he was away from Kamuli (ostensibly on leave as the Kamuli official certified), Nkeramihigo got work at NEMA as the Administrative Officer. To many people this NEMA job looked like demoting oneself because the CAO position, he had previously held, is way above mere Administrative Officer. But Nkeramihigo, it seems, wasn’t bothered because being an agency, NEMA paid much more than colleagues earned in the typical civil service. Being CAO is a big position and it equals being a Commissioner in any Ministry. Then sometime in mid 2000s, the Office of the President advertised vacancies for Principal Administrative Secretary (PAS) in various ministries. Having overcome the hurdle of whether his Kamuli absence was abscondment or leave, Nkeramihigo successfully applied and got the job though critics maintained he shouldn’t have been shortlisted. As PAS, Nkeramihigo’s first posting was MoH from where Bigirimana asked for him to come and work under him at OPM. As PAS in MoH, Nkeramihigo wielded a lot of powers and always felt bad if anything was passed without his input. He always preferred that officers treated him well. For unknown reasons, service providers pursuing their payments never liked to deal with him. “They always worked towards avoiding crossing his path whenever they could because he wasn’t an easy one at all. He would always raise many queries before sanctioning payment as if he was the accounting officer,” recalled a colleague who worked with him at Health. On joining Bigirimana at OPM, the man from South Western Uganda was made PAS in charge of Finance and Administration. While serving as PAS, someone complained to State House and the President through then PPS Grace Akello (in writing) decreed that Nkeramihigo wasn’t good enough for what he called a sensitive docket like OPM. The directive was to take him to a less sensitive ministry and that is how he was deployed in the Ministry of local government. Patrick Mutabwire, who the accounting officer there, objected to Nkeramihigo’s posting having been told the man was an intriguer capable of causing wars in the Ministry. He pleaded with Francis Atooke, the Solicitor General, who had a vacancy at Ministry of Justice, to take in Nkeramihigo as PAS. Atooke later got advised and turned his back on Nkeramihigo who found himself PAS without deployment for several months. He would go to visit friends in active deployment occasionally for assistance. It was during this timed that the EAC opportunity came knocking and Nkeramihigo grabbed it with open hands.
LIKE-MINDED WITH MUSINGWIRE
On returning to Uganda following a bust up with one of the Tanzanian drivers at the EAC Secretariat, Nkeramihigo determined to find his way back into the service even when the standing orders are very clear on how one rejoins service. Lucky for him was the fact that Catherine Birakwate Musingwiire, the PS Ministry of Public Service, was badly hunting for a suitable person to serve as Under Secretary. This was after three Under Secretaries failed to work with her because of excessive paranoia. So paranoid is Musingwiire that whoever she sees around her, she thinks they are out to get her into trouble. That is why she has lost three Under Secretaries in the last two years she has been in office. This means that on average, she has had a new one every 8 months. So she was deceptively told that Nkeramihigo is a very good man who has always been misunderstood by colleagues because of his strong stand against graft in public service. She had previously taken early retirement from the same ministry at the rank of Assistant Commissioner in Charge of HR Affairs protesting failure by then PS Rwamafa to rein in technocrats like Christopher Obey and others who were stealing pension money. This is an attribute Museveni liked and on being told of Musingwiire’s firmness against the Obeys, Museveni sent for her from her retirement upcountry and begged her to bounce back as PS. “It was a meeting of minds between the two. She was told of Nkeramihigo being a potential good Under Secretary at a time all the guys sent there to serve as undersecretary had refused to go there saying she is very hard to work with. Nkeramihigo too was in Kampala doing nothing having lost his job in Arusha. So he needed the opportunity similar to what she was offering and he too needed a job where she needs someone as Under Secretary,” said a knowledgeable source. Catherine’s husband Frank Musingwiire is the Secretary to Public Service Commission which is supposed to recruit the Under Secretaries and critics say this initially made Nkeramihigo count this a done deal. Indeed we have seen a 13 page dossier Frank Musingwiire has written justifying Nkeramihigo’s short listing for the job of Under Secretary. He discourages insistence on technicalities by Nkeramihigo’s critics as opposed to looking at the general picture of things. We have a copy and we intend to publish this in the coming days. Now those vigorously opposed to Nkeramihigo’s posting have raised a number of grounds on which his inclusion can successfully be challenged. “One doesn’t need to be a professor to see the irregularities being committed to put him in. When rejoining, the standing orders require the officer to write to the PS Public Service Ministry but you write through Deborah Katuramu [Secretary Presidency] and it’s through her that the Public Service ministry is notified. But in this case, they skipped Deborah Katuramu and went to Catherine Musingwiire directly. The PSC then raises a minute and you rejoin at the same level and not as a promoted officer. They skipped Katuramu and they can’t justify smuggling him in because there were no vacancies even for PASs because 14 of them had just been appointed,” furiously explained a source. The same source added that: “There must be an internal advert addressed to all PSs, CAOs, previously the Mulago ED and Parliament as well as KCCA’s Jennifer Musisi alerting them to notify their officers who may be interested in applying. This clearly means even if there was a vacancy like in this case [for the Undersecretary jobs] only those in service can apply because there is no way someone who is supposed to be away in Arusha can be notified of an internal advert because it’s never addressed to his supervisor at the EAC who is the Secretary General for the community.” To comment on this story and other Mulengera news stories, call or text 0703164755