By Mulengera Reporters
Renowned for generally funding capacity-building for NGOs and CSOs focused on governance and human rights, the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF which is a basket fund by EU and Scandinavian countries) is embroiled in serious management scandals and intrigue of unprecedented proportions.
Mulengera News investigators have spoken to a number of stakeholders and the picture that emerges isn’t good at all. To begin with, there is plenty of mistrust among the program major funders even after the last year acrimonious exit of the UK.
UK’s departure left behind 7 funding partners namely Austria, Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and European Union (EU). Commenced in 2012, DGF was meant to be a five year governance program but was expanded into 2nd phase. Its funds are directed to benefit opposition like-minded CSOs and GoU. Diplomatic sources disclosed that there is growing concern the Danes are assuming growing influence to the exclusion of employees from other fund-contributing countries.
For instance many are uneasy that, despite being mere Head of Finance & Administration, stinking rich Hanne Christiansen/Csizmazia Winther is wielding more powers and influence at DGF than even Head of Program (HoP) Wim Stoffers who continues to be underlooked because he isn’t Dane. Our investigations have revealed that powerful Hanne makes many of the substantive decisions at DGF.
This has caused Stoffers to be perceived by many stakeholders as a mere figure head easily cowed and overcome by Hanne who has been here since the inception of DGF in 2012. Multiple sources disclosed that even when dealing with Foreign Affairs Ministry officials like Sam Kutesa, Okello Oryem or even Ambassador Kafeero, Hanne (a prolific smoker) easily comes off as the one with the last word on everything at DGF. Ill-fated Stoffers is a Dutch from The Netherlands and previously worked SNV Netherlands and Oxfam Novib. That huge profile should ordinarily have enabled him to assert his authority and naturally overshadow everything but it turns out Hanne has been here long enough and has adequately networked and galvanized support of everybody that matters in this town and beyond.
Hanne’s iron-fisted administrative approach has inevitably split staff at DGF into two camps with one loyal to her and majority others being bitterly against her. Some go as far as accusing her of having unfounded contempt for black employers whose race she perceives as full of liars and dishonest characters.
Her supporters among employees openly brag that Stoffers was recruited to become HoP (there have been three others who didn’t last because of Hanne’s complex personality) because he was considered too soft (almost timid) to the extent he can’t do anything to stand in Hanne’s way. That his recruitment was choreographed by strategists in the Royal Danish Embassy merely for PR purposes and to also appease other fund-contributing countries that were beginning to grumble over Danes growing influence in DGF. “An impression had to be created that DGF wasn’t only about Danes monopolizing top decision-making positions,” says a Ugandan NGO leader with vast connections at DGF.
Before the much tormented Stoffers, the other DGF Heads of Program that suffered the indignity of supervising very powerful Hanne included Lars P Christensen and Hellen Mealins. They each left ahead of their job contract completion because they considered Hanne-gripped DGF a hell of sorts.
There are growing concerns (that could lead to strike of sorts at DGF) that the Hanne-led administration sometimes treats black employees with outright racism and unnecessary contempt. The only person that hasn’t suffered any form of stigmatization is DGF Procurement Officer Percy Nikita who is a leading blue eyed girl of Hanne. There is also another lady who is married to a white DGF employee. She too hasn’t been treated contemptuously like other non-European DGF employees. This lady (names withheld) deputizes the content manager at DGF. Outright offensive racist and derogatory remarks are often made targeting black employees but whenever reported, top administration doesn’t act. A top administrator often accuses Uganda/black DGF employees of low productivity levels insensitively saying this is because of their race and skin color.
Some aggrieved employees have reported this racism to the Royal Danish Embassy (RDE) in Kampala but Majbrit Holm Jakobsen who is the Ag Head of Mission doesn’t seem bothered. Instead one influential Ugandan NGO leader told Mulengera News that there are no management anomalies or problems at DGF as far as very influential Majbrit is concerned. She reportedly believes entertaining such complaints would badly portray F & A head Hanne who she considers to be a super manager sent from heaven.
There are also wide spread concerns that whites, especially Danes breach Article 21 of the Ugandan Constitution by discriminatively earning 10 times more remuneration than their Ugandan counterparts doing similar work. One source likened extreme denigration of Ugandan workers at DGF to physical and emotional trauma Ugandans endure while working as lowly-paid domestic servants in Middle Eastern countries.
Some time back a Ugandan DGF employee lost his biological mother and sought permission from his white supervisors to be off to be able to fully participate in funeral arrangements as can be naturally expected but to his dismay, the European supervisors allowed him to be off only for one day. The official explanation given for this blatant abuse of the concerned staff’s rights as an employee was that being a typical Ugandan there was high likelihood this was a fake death.
That the poor man was merely lying about his mother’s death just to justify absence from work. He was tomerntingly told if he exceeds one day without reporting back to work, his monthly salary would proportionately be chopped by equal number of days. On facing such adversity, employees would ordinarily consider running to Ag Head of Mission for Royal Danish Embassy (RDE) Majbrit Holm Jakobsen who has been here since 2013. “She took the position of Head of Mission in acting capacity last year following the painful departure of Amb Mogens Pedersen who was a more prudent seasoned diplomat,” says a source at the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Former close acquaintances say that this temporary assignment to head the RDE mission has caused Majbrit change and grow wings like never before. Many accuse her of being indifferent whenever DGF matters are reported to her. This is partly because of her strong relations with Hanne, the defacto head of DGF.
Just like Hanne, Majbrit has built a strong network of male friends among influential NGO world leaders in Uganda. Examples include Chapter Four supremo Nicolas Opio, Action Aid’s Arthur Larok (who recently unsettled NRM by officially joining Gen Muntu’s ANT), NGO Forum’s Richard Sewakiryanga and Godbar Tumushabe whose Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies is renowned for being very outspoken on governance and accountability issues sometimes often frightening NRM. These are some of the key confidantes that are very friendly to both Hanne and Majbrit. For instance either of them will abruptly be called upon to have an evening drink while reflecting on the governance question and the CSO terrain in Uganda. In fact some NGO leaders sometimes consider their funding proposals unlikely to succeed if any of the four influential actors gives DGF a contrary opinion during those evening encounters.
The four organizations routinely stage highly funded retreats in various places like Entebbe, Garuga, Jinja and Kigo. Sometimes other NGO leaders demonize these retreats claiming the four have a habit of undermining them before DGF funders. By the way there is a lot feuding and intrigue in the NGO world which we shall profile in our subsequent series on the DGF saga.
Recent release of billions to the GoU to fund large programs like the Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative (NURI) has given Majbrit growing clout even in government circles. Yet some have also attempted to use her name to occasion controversial programs and interventions targeting some schools around the country. Some of the Ugandan NGO leaders claim superior entitlement to DGF funds because their close friend and ally Majbrit is the one calling shots there through her Danish Mission.
It’s repeatedly parroted that the other fund contributing countries can’t overrule anything once the Danish embassy takes a position. It’s also true some Danish officials have lately made very contemptuous assessment of Per Lindgarde regarding the suitability of Swedish nationals occupying high positions at DGF. Some of the characterizations one Danish lady recently made, upon getting intoxicated during an evening drink up session, were so vulgar we can’t repeat them here.
In the same drink up session, attended by a few Ugandan NGO leaders, the powerful Danish lady went as far as bragging how they had thwarted efforts by Sam Kutesa, Okello Oryem and Amb Kafeero to have the Ugandan government represented on the DGF governing board. In that same evening drink up session, the same Dane made very contemptuous remarks of Burundi’s Ambassador who currently serves as the Dean of Ambassadors. The Dene went as far as bragging that their country can even cause political trouble for the regime in Kampala should the Foreign Affairs Ministry not give up their demand for inclusion on the DGF board.
There is apprehension about the GoU being represented on the DGF board because that could lead to demands for higher transparency and scrutiny levels. Already there is a Nsambya-based NGO called Dan Church Aid (DCA) whose activities the Ugandan security agencies are increasingly becoming interested in. Security wants to establish the extent of friendship between Peter Bro Larsen who heads DCA and some extremist actors in the Ugandan political class.
Our investigations also disclosed the extent to which DGF is choking on curious procurement decisions. Some service providers say they have perpetually been excluded in favor of some few each time there is a large quantity of supplies to be made. That Procurement Officer Percy Nikita hasn’t been very enthusiastic to act whenever they report perceived irregularities. That some of the favored suppliers deliver goods at outrageously very inflated prices and nobody acts even when a red flag is raised.
The DGF secretariat often expends colossal sums of money on the purchase or procurement of property and vehicles for the partner NGOs through which DGF delivers its mandate. Recently for unknown reasons, the powerful officials at the DGF Secretariat became uncomfortable transacting with Toyota Uganda Ltd from which vehicles have always been bought. Procurement guidelines were curiously altered to favor other less deserving service providers that had always been locked out on grounds they lacked adequate capacity.
In the end a long fleet of vehicles (contrary to DGF policy these were 2nd hand cars) was procured from one of the bonded warehouses in Kampala. The 2nd hand vehicles were given to many organizations including Richard Sewakiryanga’s NGO Forum where war has since erupted with some top bosses being accused of connivance with like-minded actors at DGF secretariat to deliver 2nd hand vehicles. The delivery of 2nd hand cars has sparked internal strife that long-serving Sewakiryanga will require divine intervention to overcome. Critics say some of the vehicles NGO Forum partner organizations received were defective and won’t for long serve intended purpose.
Yet not only vehicles are subject to these latest procurement queries surrounding DGF. Other recently procured items are being queried too including computer sets, computer accessories, Public Address Systems and hand-held telephonic devices. Critics say providers for all these were identified through a process that was characterized by “bidder-rigging” as one source put it. There are wide spread claims that such curious procurement processes have resulted into some officials making a killing.
On the side of the Ugandan government, security gurus haven’t forgotten attempts by some white IT experts to compromise the integrity of EC’s results-transmission electronic system in 2015 after the DGF proposal to solicit donor funds to purchase an alternative system were thrown out. This was after President Museveni put his foot on the ground calling that unacceptable act of imperialism. Museveni has since disappointingly established that the much-inflated elections’ system deal was to be awarded to a spouse to one of the powerful ladies closely connected to DGF and in the process defraud donors and the GoU.
There is also wide spread aggrievement that a top female boss at DGF uses her influence to get her husband lucrative IT deals which is clear conflict of interest which clearly is an abominable practice even in 3rd world countries like Uganda. That the electronic storage of all DGF files, web mails, database applications and the video/IP/CCTV network servers are stored at a DGF top official’s residence in Bugolobi in Nakawa Division is unacceptable conflict of interest not expected in a donor funded program. This means money meant to fund programs leading to capacitation of the Ugandan providers is being held up as the DGF top officials consider themselves first yet these are practices which they sponsor NGOs to condemn the GoU for.
Consequently the benefiting DGF bosses have accumulated personal fortunes in form of residential and commercial properties in SA cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town. A female Ugandan proxy is often facilitated to make luxurious trips to SA to ostensibly inspect and supervise the performance of these businesses. The female proxy has also been rewarded and uses the money she gets to accumulate properties mostly in the Mukono and Seeta townships.
Recently aggrieved insiders also tipped the Ugandan security urging them to investigate some DGF top officials for improper financial conduct. Security has since become keenly interested in some officials at DGF including those who curiously registered for change of names sometime last year.
There are also concerns that some of the companies owned by spouses of DGF bosses haven’t been fully disclosing their incomes with a view to diminish their respective tax obligations. Some spouses have been making a killing on provision of consultancy services to DGF immediately repatriating all the monies they are routinely paid off the DGF account. Stakeholders want the GoU Local Content policy to be strictly enforced to ensure local Ugandan consultants too cash in on the DGF billions especially those expended in the area of IT services. Watch out for part 2. (For comments, email us at email@example.com).