TOTAL CHAOS AS STAFF ASK KASAIJJA TO HALT URF ED RECRUITMENT, TACKLE BOD
By Mulengera Reporters
Accusing Board Chairperson Merian Kyomugisha Sebunya of improperly using her office to undermine some would-be suitable candidates while promoting others, aggrieved managers have written to supervising Minister Matia Kasaijja calling on him to halt the recruitment process for the new Executive Director for Uganda Road Fund (URF).
Founded 10 years ago, URF is responsible for financially supporting local governments to pave roads upcountry making them more motorable. As Mulengera teams established during a recent field visit in the West Nile, the URF funds the largest bulk of all road works in upcountry districts and Municipalities. They also financially support road works by KCCA and UNRA. Eng Micheal Odongo, the founding ED, will be bowing out in months’ time having done 10 years at the helm.
Staff are now angry that Kyomugisha, who has always been at loggerheads with members of URF top management, is using this recruitment process and her remaining 6 months of tenure to settle old scores while victimizing insiders that are suitably qualified and would ordinarily stand a chance at replacing their mentor Eng Micheal Odongo.
In their huge dossier, the staff ask Kasaijja (who previously asked Kyomugisha to keep out of office to enable IGG investigate her previous conduct) to quickly weigh in and save the Fund from impending costly litigation.
They say if the job advert that they allege Kyomugisha worked on with Rosemary Owino (Board member & Audit Committee chair) is allowed to stand and become the basis of recruitment, many would-be candidates will naturally get aggrieved and sue government in civil courts. This, they fear, will cost the tax payer colossal sums of money in damages.
They raise a number of grievances which Kasaijja must address to re-sanitize the recruitment process. They describe Owino as unfit referencing on Kasaijja’s own past efforts to ask the accounting body she represents on the board to replace her with someone more suitable. That she is so inept to the extent she has never convened proper Audit Committee meetings as required of her.
They accuse Owino of personally ringing New Vision to pick the advert advertising the ED job. They say this was very irregular and call on Kasaijja to investigate the motive why Board members would usurp management work. They say the placement of the job advert ideally is a matter of the entity’s procurement unit and wonder why Owino and Sebunya had to act directly themselves.
Quoting from the URF Act, the petitioners say it’s improper for the Board Chairperson to make any ED recruitment-related decisions without first consulting the Finance Minister because he is the ultimate authority when it comes to supervising the ED. They also say Kyomugisha is an interested party who should naturally excuse herself from playing any role in the recruitment process because some of the URF managers who are eligible and might apply for the job have previously been at loggerheads with her.
They accuse Kyomugisha of altering the requirements for the next ED ostensibly to favor some outsiders she allegedly wants to take the job. The staff claim that because it’s a highly technical job, the URF ED must be a registered engineer and not just someone affiliated to any professional body as stipulated in the Kyomugisha advert. They urge Kasaijja to investigate why the requirements for new ED are being diluted like never before.
They are also disputing the 23rd August board meeting which sat and purported to diminish the requirements contrary to what the URF Act and HR manual stipulate. They say the eligibility criterion was 10 years ago arrived at in consultation with the Sector Working Group members who included representation from Finance, Local Government and Works Ministries. The development partners like WB, who fund the sector, equally inputted into the process and are already protesting the manner in which the same has since been diluted.
That the 23rd August board meeting wasn’t procedurally convened properly because key stakeholder representatives weren’t in the meeting yet their technical input would be critical. For instance, the Finance and Local Government Ministries’ representatives missed the meeting.
Kasaijja is also reminded why the roads sector is of critical importance including the fact that in the last few years, the GoU has injected over $6.5bn in our road network. The URF managers argue that because of such vast investment, the leadership of the sector should at all times be in the hands properly recruited competent managers and not people coming to learn on the job. That a biased recruitment process will lead to unnecessary litigation and scandalization of the sector.
Indeed, a significant fraction of the $6.5bn has been contributed by donors who are already uncomfortable with URF Board recruiting the next ED in a process that departs from the high standards previously set and agreed upon through the Sector Working Group framework.
The staff say that since her return from months of suspension after Kasaijja asked her to stay away to enable IGG investigate, Kyomugisha has been very vindictive towards those she suspects to have reported to the IGG. That because of that, there is bias which is why Kyomugisha’s board has overlooked the requirement to give priority to internal URF staff when hunting for Odongo’s replacement.
That because of the huge investment the GoU and development partners have sunk into training and skilling of some senior managers at URF, the EU would be comfortable having an insider replacing Eng Odongo. The managers remind Kasaijja that the very board Kyomugisha chairs previously resolved and authored a minute to the effect that each time senior management positions are being filled priority will go to the qualified insiders if any. The Board resolution was minuted as 205/52/2015.
They claim Kyomugisha has ignored all that because she remains angry towards all insiders at URF because she suspects it’s them who have been reporting her to the IGG whose report spokesperson Ali Munira tells Mulengera News will be out soon. The report will be on the many cases of impropriety that have been alleged against Kyomugisha.
In their voluminous dossier, the URF staff focus Kasaijja on the fact that in the last 10 years the GoU has deliberately been investing a lot of money into the training and skilling of managers at URF as part of succession planning to ensure by the time Odongo leaves, the organization has mentored someone good enough to take over. This increases understanding of the job and institutional memory and it’s indeed the reason why past EDs have been replaced by their former subordinates at entities like URA, PPDA, NWSC, UMEME, UNBS, UNEB, NARO and CAA.
The staff claim that this should ordinarily be departed from only and only if none of the existing senior managers qualifies. They argued that with exception of Corporate Affairs Manager Dorcas Apita Angom who continues to be under special mentorship by Public Service Commission, all the top managers at URF qualify to be given first priority before even the thing is escalated to external advert.
They claim that many of them are way more qualified than the external candidates some board members are trying to favor to become the next ED. Branding her a problem lady, the staff urge Kasaijja to renew his demands that the relevant professional body withdraws Owino and replace her with someone more suitable. They predict that the Sector Working Group will vehemently protest an ED who doesn’t meet the qualifications stipulated in the Act and URF HR Manual.
This will be detrimental to the GoU as it will erode donor confidence in it regarding commitment to heed high corporate governance standards. They claim that because she is ineligible for retention in February 2029 when her final contract expires, Kyomugisha shouldn’t be allowed to act improperly and get away with it.
They decry the money that URF will have to pay New Vision for the advert which they say was a wrong one and will have to be withdrawn. They also protest the time given to applicants for the job arguing three weeks is too short a period to attract as many suitable candidates as possible. They argue the advert should ideally be escalated to appear in many regional and international newspapers for the benefit of would-be good candidates that may not be ordinarily resident in Uganda.
To make their point, they reference on the 2008 recruitment process through which Eng Micheal Odongo became ED. That the job advert ran in national, regional and international newspapers including the Economist besides platforms like the WB website. That to ensure the process was extremely transparent and professionally done, the EU got involved in securing a professional firm to handle the recruitment.
They accuse the Board Chairperson and Ms Owino of being uncomfortable with the same being repeated this time around. They satirize things by focusing Kasaijja on the possibility of even fresh graduates applying for the ED job because the contents of Kyomugisha’s advert have placed the standards so low that every Dick, Tom and Hurry can give it a shot. (For comments, call/text us on 0200900416 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).