SECRET CABINET UNRA MEMO LEAKS AS KAGINA SPEAKS ON THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS
By Our Reporters
Contents of a new confidential cabinet memo, justifying the scrapping of UNRA and other “wasteful” entities, have exclusively leaked to this news website. Titled “The Draft Cabinet paper,” the memo specifically states that “UNRA had become [too] amorphous” to deliver anything good anymore. The memo shows that before finally voting to scrap UNRA, having considered it unnecessary, some Allen Kagina sympathizers had proposed a face-saving measure whereby UNRA would be merged with Uganda Railways Corporation (URC). This, however, was unanimously rejected in cabinet as members passionately argued that the two (URC & UNRA) were having totally incompatible mandates since URC is a parastatal involved in income generation for the GoU. This argument of incompatibility was spearheaded by Works Minister Eng Monica Azuba Ntege, who ironically became Minister on strong recommendation Allen Kagina who was then very influential and powerful at Museveni’s court. Things can change so rapidly because this (Kagina successfully recommending Azuba) is barely three years ago!
MORE FROM MEMO;
The leaked cabinet memo shows that instead Azuba proposed that UNRA should be given additional responsibility to oversee the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and its CEO’s powers be further checked by Cabinet strengthening the Works Minister’s supervisory role over URC. During both the last Monday and the 20th August cabinet sessions, Ministers appreciated the extent to which UNRA had in its last 10 years of existence (since 2007) impacted on the vastness of Uganda’s paved road network. As of 2007, when the World Bank successfully persuaded President Museveni to establish UNRA as an autonomous roads Authority, Uganda had 11,000 kms of tarmacked roads which the various UNRA managements, Kagina inclusive, have grown to 21,000 kms in the last 10 years of UNRA operations. The same cabinet ministers were, however, unanimous in decrying the extent to which UNRA had eaten into the national pulse on for instance exorbitant salaries, allowances and other remuneration. “And that the burden of paying wages to its [less than 2,000 employees] costs Shs150bn [annually] which was too exorbitant for the government to continue to shoulder,” the memo reads in part.
We have separately established that, in ganging up against UNRA, ministers were partly angered by the indifference with which UNRA ED Allen Kagina has been treating her political supervisors at the Works Ministry. She rarely comes for ministry top management meetings which are meant to enable the CEOs for the different sector agencies to abreast the ministry about what they are doing. She has been so contemptuous that when she attends such meetings at all, she will be buried into her I-pad and quite often leaves the meeting without uttering a word even when she is required to in case her very UNRA entity is being discussed. Quite often she doesn’t attend in person on grounds that she has better things to do. She delegates one of her juniors and it was only John Byabagambi as Works Minister who had guts to stand up to her. He one time rang to blast the ED and furiously said to her “please if you can’t come yourself, don’t send us those representatives of yours and mind you we can do without UNRA at those meetings.” This only escalated bad blood that already existed between these two powerful officials and in the end when Byabagambi was transferred and relegated to the less prolific Karamoja docket, sector pundits saw this as triumph for Kagina and defeat for the Byabagambi camp. What made matters even worse, leaving the Byabagambi camp members more subdued, was the fact that the political colossus from Ibanda was replaced by Azuba that initially was widely perceived to be a Kagina proxy. The return of Eng Samson Bagonza as Engineer in Chief too was triumph for the Kagina people as the old Ministry guard, sympathetic to Byabagambi, were understood to have actively worked against Bagonza in order to appease ex-PS Muganzi. With Bagonza powerfully returning to Works, an impression was created that Kagina’s interests were now well fortified at Port Bell Road. The two state ministers deputizing Azuba too didn’t in any way frighten Kagina.
Whereas Aggrey Bagire is business-minded and is perceived as Gen Salim Saleh’s points- man in the Ministry, Katumba Wamala turned out too cautious to dare Kagina on anything. She superficially easily had a cordial relationship with the General from Kyaggwe who, fearful Gen Saleh could be spying on him using Bagire, preferred a low profile approach. Azuba is naturally a laid back person meaning even when she eventually became uncomfortable with Kagina, there wasn’t much she could do to her. Given that state of affairs at Port Bell, Kagina seemed to get away with it most of the time. Bagonza’s opinion meant much more than that of any other technocrat at Port Bell Road because he also sits on the UNRA board. Sometime at the beginning of last month, Board members pondered ousting Kagina like had been done to her protégé Jolly Kaguhangire at UIA but the plot failed after State House got wind of it and counter-mobilized. Not because President Museveni still valued Kagina that much. No. The State House concern was the embarrassment and chaos such a thing would create in government via media reports. There were also fears such a coup would inspire governing boards elsewhere to begin throwing out their EDs or CEOs, a thing that would have created a semblance of chaos in government. Kagina supporters blamed this aborted board coup on board Chairman Fred Omach for whom some actors unsuccessfully solicited for a posh vehicle and body guard all at UNRA’s expense. Kagina put her foot on the ground saying Board members would enjoy such unmerited groceries after she ceases to be UNRA ED. Kagina’s supporters too have often tended to attribute her woes on Gen Salim Saleh who is understood to be a close ally of Brig John Mugyenyi whose differences with the Kagina-led management at UNRA are well known. Mugyenyi, a renowned sector power broker, lost out as soon as Kagina became UNRA ED as the Authority ended the multi-billion tenancy agreement out of his Wandegeya building in which the old UNRA operated. Financially this greatly hurt Mugyenyi’s fortunes as a businessman.
BETI KAMYA’S DAY;
But before all this occurred, something concerning Kampala Minister Beti Kamya happened in State House. In the presence of First Lady Janet Museveni, who was always believed to be the patron of the Kagina group, Kamya appeared before the President (it was a meeting of three people) and freely criticized KCCA ED Jennifer Musisi’s management style. After that meeting, one of our State House sources spoke to us. “What I have seen today is clear indication the days of those hitherto very powerful ladies aren’t going to be many. That Beti Kamya, a system outsider would boldly discuss Musisi like that in the presence of Mama [Janet] I have been surprised. It’s unprecedented and that Mama didn’t bother defending her blue eyed girl [Musisi] is something very instructive. I’m now beginning to understand why those Kagina ladies that used to be like flower girls at State House functions are sometimes not even invited these days. Just watch the space,” the dependable State House source said to us back in June. It’s now clear this source’s innocent observations were indicative of what would come months later. Perhaps having got premonition, Kagina had indicated to close confidants of her desire to exit public service at the expiry of her UNRA term despite rumors that she could replace Azuba as Works Minister. Musisi too seems to have got the message by implication. On her KCCA term expiring, she had become reluctant to pick another contract staying on at City Hall. “I can reluctantly accept to stay on because of the way the H/E has engaged me but that can only happen if I freely get a renewal without any hassle,” Musisi reportedly told a Public Service Panel that had assembled, at the President’s prompting, to subject her to some basic interview procedure.
BACK TO CABINET MEMO;
During the two decisive cabinet meetings, where President’s criticisms of Kagina-led UNRA took many by surprise, some ministers made reference to the fact that even with the very limited funding it gets, the Works Ministry was ably managing the 80,000 kms of roads its responsible for (both murram and tarmac). They are categorized as district roads, LC3/Sub County community access roads and urban authorities roads which are managed by Municipalities and Town Councils. In the end, according to the memo, cabinet came to the conclusion it was time up for UNRA. This is how the memo justifies this conclusion: “To have a unified command in the roads sector, the agency [UNRA] should be restructured into a department in the Ministry of Works &Transport headed by an officer at a Commissioner level and to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in road construction initiatives.”
KAGINA SPEAKS OUT;
On seeing the extent to which anxiety was escalating and evidently demoralizing her UNRA team across the country, Kagina has decided to communicate something to re-organize her troops and try to keep their morale as high as she can. In a confidential staff email, this is what she has so far communicated: “Good evening colleagues. Many of you have by now heard unofficial information on social media to the effect that UNRA will be disbanded and the work of road development and maintenance revert to MOWT. We have not received any official information to this effect. I urge you to please remain committed as you always have been to your assignments connecting Uganda.” Far from calming down anxiety, this emailed communication only escalated the situation as many employees remained disturbed by their ED’s inability to out rightly dismiss the media reports as fake news. For comments/feedback, reach us via email@example.com