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I HAVE BEEN BULLIED AND SUPPRESSED: PWC STAFF SUES CLAIMING TORTURE AGAINST HIS BOSSES

By Isaac Wandubile 

All isn’t well at Price Water Coopers (PWC) Uganda where staff disgruntlement is fast spreading and an implosion could be witnessed at the Communications House-based prestigious audit firm in the not very distant future. Mulengera News understands that the UK-trained Francis Kamulegeya-led audit firm is sitting on a time bomb due to wide spread staff discontent. Staff mutedly are complaining of things like favoritism, failure to heed the provisions of the firm’s own HR Manual, intrigue and financial exploitation by way of underpayment amidst being overworked.

This extreme exploitation of the workers’ labor and harassment by some of the partners, who like barking at especially associates over minor mistakes, explains why cases of employees collapsing into hospital admission (mostly at IHK) over fatigue-related causes are lately on the increase at PWC. On average, a low level employee at PWC (they are called Associates) has a take home of Shs1.56m per month but must work real hard for this modest money.

There is simply too much pressure on each and every employee to deliver so much client work in such a very short time, a thing that could even impact on the quality of the resultant audit or even tax advisory reports. The firm (which is one of the big four the other three being Deloite, KPMG and Ernest & Young) has over 160 employees some of whom are compelled to stay in office up to 2am (basically to work over time without attracting any allowances) because the organization is fatally understaffed.

There are also concerns that, whereas the firm officially collects colossal sums of money from its wealthy clients like USAID, Global Fund, Gavi, the UN Agencies involved in refugee operations, URA and almost all commercial banks in Kampala (whereby auditing or even tax advisory work is charged in dollars at the rate of between Shs900,000 and Shs3m per hour), the employees who do the actual donkey work are paid peanuts.

To earn better, one must get promoted first and there is widespread discontent that promotions processes aren’t adequately transparent as some of the managers (supposed to recommend people for promotion) are accused of favoring their relatives, friends, cronies and sometimes girlfriends. There is a manager who is famous for only assigning curvaceous girls work on all projects that come through him leaving many wondering why average-looking girls are never perceived to be brainy enough by this sexpest manager. The situation is even worsened by the fact that the four partners can’t easily be accessed by the aggrieved lower rank employees who must channel their concerns through the very managers causing this aggrievement.

Some of the partners, with exception of Kamulegeya, are aloof and naturally very proud because of their exceptional career and financial achievement. As such, they discourage receiving direct feedback from employees. Some departments have as few as 10 managers doing bulky clients’ work which ordinarily requires up to 30 managers to supervise the other to deliver on time. This is the reason people are forced to work through the night and end up being booked into IHK to treat fatigue-related complications. Many claim to have developed eye defects they initially didn’t have due to excessive exposure to laptops and desktops’ screens during prolonged hours of work.

THE BARAK CASE

It’s against this background that a one Barak Tulinaomubeezi, who has opted to challenge the PWC imprudent and draconian management decisions in court, has become an instant hero for many aggrieved employees quietly grumbling as they continue to hang in there. Barak’s case relates to constructive dismissal whereby the very proud and stinking rich PWC partners and top managers don’t believe in outright dismissal of employees. Once they are tired of you, for one reason or another, they will use your relevant manager to mistreat and cause you to emotionally become broken and dismiss yourself through voluntary resignation.

According to formal complaint papers, Mulengera News has perused from the Sezibwa Road-based KCCA Labor Office, Barak was frustrated through denial of work assignments which created an impression he was non-performing because at the end of the day, in a setting like PWC, one’s output can only result from executing the roles he or she has been assigned. In the instant case, the psychological and emotional torture clearly aimed at frustrating the 28-year-old Barak into resignation out of PWC was orchestrated by a one Norbert Nuwahereza who is the staffing manager of the PSG department where he falls.

Lodged by Isaac Semakade’s Center for Legal Aid, a Bombo Road-based law firm renowned for spearheading such litigation on behalf of the vulnerable employees seeking to take on their giant employers, the instant complaint shows that Barak’s woes began in July 2020 and the whole thing later escalated at the beginning this year 2021. Apparently, the relevant managers at the firm considered Barak undesirable and generally developed negative bias towards him after realizing he had a journalism background. They considered him a rumor-monger who potentially might blow up the company’s cover and expose its closet skeletons someday.

The Ndejje University graduate came through the Graduate Recruitment program through which PWC (which ironically has a high staff turnover due to low pay amidst too much work) annually identifies and recruits the very best brains from Universities around Kampala. We shall in our subsequent coverage of this huge PWC contradiction profile the loopholes in this Graduate recruitment program and why the close to 30 young graduates who were last December forced out of PWC (having spent 5 years earning peanuts as data entrants on the Austrian-funded VMA project in Bugolobi) have never stopped cursing some of the PWC partners with some pondering legal action against the otherwise much admired PWC for manipulating and abusing their trust. Some of them say, PWC didn’t even stick to its very in-house practices for which it’s theoretically renowned.

BACK TO BARAK

The written complaint filed by Center for Legal Aid and dated Friday 23rd March highlights ways in which the PWC has breached several provisions of the Constitution and the Employment Act regarding the Barak mistreatment. That Barak wasn’t only victimized but was also subjected to very malicious and embarrassing performance appraisal sessions (technically known as PIP) yet his apparent underperformance resulted from his immediate supervisor’s curious refusal to assign him work.

That as if he had personal vendetta against Barak, Norbert Nuwahereza would make occasional phone calls just to mock and bully the young man who never understood why the manager was always out to get him. That it was a well calibrated work place campaign aimed at frustrating Barak into resignation and it was orchestrated by Nuwahereza with the acquiescence of other superiors like PWC Human Capital Manager (basically HR) Shivan Karemera, Clive Mayombwe, partner Dowson Kalemba and Uthman Mayanja, the lawyer’s complaint on the KCCA file asserts in part. That this sustained campaign of witch hunt escalated mostly between 8th January and 19th March when Barak got overwhelmed and proclaimed his resignation.

The law firm further contends that their client Barak was also “unjustifiably denied one month’s pay in lieu of notice and four months’ pay as severance allowance on cessation of employment among other terminal benefits.” That even when the firm is theoretically known to be among the best when it comes to enforcing excellent pro-staff values, policies and standards, PWC managers threw everything to the wind in order to fix Barak, the lawyers further assert. That all this makes PWC liable to paying colossal sums of money in compensation to atone the detriment Barak suffered as a result of the wrongful actions of the 5 managers who the lawyers sarcastically refer to as the “five bullies” in their documentation on behalf of their client.

That Barak suffered not only emotional distress but also unwarranted disruption in his career and financial progression. That the very humiliating ordeal the young man endured at the hands of the indifferent PWC managers resulted into loss of dignity and personal self-esteem. That he also endured huge financial anxiety because the servicing of the salary loan he had contracted with one of the city banks was disrupted and made complicated because of the very anomalous circumstances under which the impugned managers made impossible his continued stay in the PWC employment.

The KCCA Labor Officer is being implored to urgently inquire into Barak’s complaint, general grievances and the conduct of the 5 PWC managers and accordingly make the appropriate orders to atone the detriment the young auditor has endured due to fault not of his own. The young man, who sources say is determined to go all the way even if it means sacrificing himself so that future employees lead a more productive life working with PWC, is also demanding billions of shillings in compensation. The almost unprecedented litigation risks badly bruising PWC’s otherwise very good image and globally-acclaimed brand status.

According to KCCA’s Labor Officer Irene Nabumba, Francis Kamulegeya in his capacity as PWC Senior Partner has since been dully written to and notified about Barak’s complaint and an opportunity to deescalate things through the firm diplomatically engaging with their aggrieved employees still exists. Nabumba’s office will only launch full scale investigations into the complaint on getting notification from Barak’s lawyers that that path hasn’t yielded.

Nabumba says Kamulegeya and other PWC partners (Uthman Mayanja, Dowson Kalemba, Pamela Natamba & Cedric Mpa Obusingye) have up to Thursday 6th April to resolve the issue internally or else her Labor Court commences full blown inquiry to the total detriment of the PWC brand reputation. By 6th April, Kamulegeya is supposed to have written back notifying KCCA Labor Officer Nantaba of the steps being taken thus far to amicably respond to and address Barak’s grievances.

In our subsequent reporting on this matter, beyond this Barak labor dispute, we shall be serializing and profiling what exactly has gone wrong inside PWC leading to the wide spread staff discontent that is currently brewing at the multi-trillion audit/HR recruitment and tax advisory firm. We shall also, in a multiplicity of ways, make reference to the internal business practices through which PWC still manages to make a killing in this seemingly struggling market among other aspects. We shall also reference and make sense of a string of leaked confidential emails that continue to be exchanged between top managers at PWC regarding what must be done to preempt and diffuse the impending staff strike at the firm protesting inadequate pay amidst too much work as the partners strive to maximize profits while minimizing costs and expenditures.(For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

Shivan Karemera – Head of human capital PWC Uganda.

Uthman Mayanja

Dowson Kalemba

Norbert Nuwahereza, Manager, Government & Public Sector PwC Uganda.

Barak Tulinaomubezi

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