UGANDA’S 10 MOST POWERFUL ACCOUNTING OFFICERS NAMED
By John V Sserwaniko
Finance Ministry’s Permanent Secretary & Secretary to Treasury (PSST) Keith Muhakanizi recently released a list of new accounting officers who are to handle the implementation of the Shs40.48trn budget for the Financial Year 2019/2020.
In basic terms, the Shs40.48trn indicates what government plans to spend (ostensibly to facilitate service delivery) in the next 12 months. In total, there are 797 Accounting Officers of varying influence and clout. They include PSs of Ministries, heads of missions abroad, EDs for Agencies, USs for Universities & CAOs for district Local Governments.
Some are very powerful because of who they know or are connected to and also in terms of how much has been allocated to them to implement service delivery in the respective government Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
THE TOP 10
Having scrutinized the list and perused profiles of the different accounting officers, we present the following as the most powerful and influential off the list of the 797 that PSST Muhakanizi (whose job it is to appoint them) designated recently for purposes of the FY2019/20. For starters, as PSST Muhakanizi has power to designate them every FY. Depending on how he feels about each, he can drop or retain some for the subsequent FY. It’s all his discretion.
She is the Permanent Secretary for the entire Health sector to which Shs2.5trn has been allocated for spending in the next 12 months. It’s a large sector comprising of so many agencies including NMS, NDA, UCI, UHI, Uganda Virus Research Institute, CPHL, Mulago, Butabika/other hospitals and the training institutions.
Some of these are autonomous with their own votes with accounting officers but over whom Atwine plays policy oversight role. She must give policy guidance as PS largely through the Board of Directors whose constitution she greatly influences being the equivalent of the CEO for the sector.
She also has power to appoint and determine promotion of many officers within the Wandegeya-based Ministry and the health sector at large. She can also initiate disciplinary proceedings against errant officers although she must closely work with Public Service. The Ministry’s top management meetings she superintends over as PS are attended by accounting officers from all sector agencies.
And personally, Atwine is thick-skinned and not one that can easily be cowed. Indeed, being a sector that is key to service delivery (access to health services being a must for everyone), Atwine is also critical to the delivery of the NRM manifesto promises because under performance in her sector negatively impacts on the incumbent’s reelection.
She is also not an ordinary PS; she is a powerful one and to get deeper insights on how powerful she is, one just has to read Prof Anthony Mbonye’s book or listen to what (Mbonye sympathizer) Tamale Mirundi says about her each time he discusses the sector.
A former State House high profile employee, Atwine has direct connection to the President for whom she continues to be a personal physician closely working with others like Dr. Victoria Nekesa. Some years back, when President Museveni felt need to reenergize the fight against HIV by encouraging people to test for their status, it was Atwine who publicly administered the required procedures during a public function at Bugolobi-Kiswa KCCA Health Center.
Museveni is always very cautious on especially matters of his health but that he can permit Atwine to be his personal physician for all this long is indicative of how highly rated she is in the First Family. She is also incorruptible (some say she has access to enough and doesn’t have to be corrupt to materially lead a good life) and takes no prisoners in her approach to issues in the health sector. Renowned for not mincing words, Atwine will denounce anybody publicly even in the presence of media as long as she is convinced you aren’t doing the right thing.
She is also hands-on which explains why she gets involved literally in everything as opposed to being an armchair technocrat. In fact, before becoming accounting officer as well, she had initially preferred to oversee supervision of service delivery and construction of major infrastructure projects as her strong ally Segawa Gyagenda served as accounting officer.
Her sector also has the highest level of engagement with development partners and its one sector where donor funding is still higher than government funding. Donor agencies like USAID are very active in areas like HIV in which they inject much more cash than what government puts in.
That she was able to overcome and herd out equally powerful Prof Mbonye (whose wife is the powerful State House Comptroller and keeper of Museveni’s money) is indicative of how much clout Atwine wields. She is also deeply spiritual just like her Minister Jane Ruth Aceng.
The seasoned technocrat started out working at lower levels in the Ministry of Works and Transport where he grew to the rank of Under Secretary. From Works, he joined Defense where he networked very well with powerful actors like then CDF Aronda Nyakayirima and others. He also worked under Noble Mayombo as PS among others.
Venerable Hajji Yunnus Kakande, the Secretary Office of the President, is among his key mentors in the delivery of public services. After Defense, highly educated Kakooza (who is also a Mak/LDC-trained lawyer) joined MAAIF where he served as Under Secretary and also accounting officer.
Having seen and liked his work ethic, then MAAIF PS Pius Rubarema recommended to PSST to make him accounting officer. In fact, for long he was one of the very few accounting officers who weren’t PSs. His excellent performance opened doors for other Under Secretaries to become accounting officers. At Energy, Kabagambe Kaliisa abdicated the role of accounting officer to Eng Mubiru who later burnt his fingers and was disgracefully herded out of the Energy sector.
Being accounting officer can be very tempting exposing one to a lot of temptations if you don’t have strong values of integrity. Integrity and contempt for material things is what has made the difference for Kakooza who in 2016 was elevated to PS.
Having tried many others (including the legendary Dr. Stephen Kagoda), the President (acting on intelligence reports & analysis) concluded Kakooza was the best technocrat to support his wife Janet at the Education Ministry. Even in the First Family there was growing consensus that the reclusive man from Luwero had what it takes to fit into the shoes of former PS FX Lubanga whose departure caused turmoil and decline in sector performance prompting donors to suspend funding as key infrastructure projects weren’t being delivered on time.
In Kakooza, Janet found a perfect technocrat who (going by his MAAIF track record) even donors were comfortable doing business with. He leads through meetings and delegation, all of which were uncommon during the days of his paranoid predecessor Dr. Rose Nassali Lukwago. In this FY2019/20 budget, Kakooza’s education sector has Shs3.2trn up from last FY’s Shs2.7trn. Of the Shs3.2trn, much goes to the different votes leaving Kakooza with around Shs600bn to meet the Ministry’s recurrent and development expenditure needs.
Some of the bureaucrats who had left the sector, protesting witch-hunt by Nassali (like Aggrey Kibenge) are back. Indeed, it’s Kibenge to whom Kakooza delegates some of the work including attending most of the First Lady’s meetings with development partners. Gratefully, his loyal Under Secretary Kibenge is equally seasoned and ably does a good job whenever delegated.
And of course, working that closely with the First Lady makes Kakooza a powerful and well-networked Permanent Secretary/Accounting Officer. The years he has productively served in the different ministries have leveraged him to establish a powerful network of allies you inevitably have to work with to deliver expected outputs. Ministry employees cherish their PS for being considerate and a team player who is accessible.
Even before the President, Kakooza will fall with his civil servants and doesn’t like sacrificing any even in Parliament. This exactly is what Kakooza manifested when his Commissioner Sports Omara got into problems with COSASE over Lira Aki-Bua stadium. He stood with him and explained to COSASE until MPs understood the full context of what was on the ground. He also works well with his ministers (not just Janet) who include Charles Bakabulindi, JC Muyingo and Rose Seninde who some consider complicated.
She is substantively the Under-Secretary F&A for the Finance Ministry. As PSST, who appoints and supervises accounting officers, Muhakanizi can’t supervise himself. Neither can he appoint himself. This is the reason why the Under-Secretary has always had to be the accounting officer for the all-powerful Finance Ministry. Katsimbazi’s strength lies in being vastly knowledgeable and team player who the Ministry staff freely access.
Just like her boss Muhakanizi, Katsimbazi is an early riser ever in office very early. She works till late especially on days the team has an appearance in Parliament before committees like PAC.
She practices open door policy permitting Ministry clients to access her office even without appointment. Her subordinate staff interact and crack jokes with her and she resents being feared as opposed to being respected. She is also strict on results and targets and whoever works under her must deliver outputs in a timely manner. When you aren’t used to her jocular approach to life you will easily write her off as the most arrogant civil servant. And by the way there aren’t many female accounting officers wielding so much clout like she does.
ALLEN CATHERINE KAGINA
As ED UNRA, she belongs to the Works & Transport sector to which Shs6.4trn has been allocated for spending in the next 12 months. This is close to 25% of the entire budget and an increase from last FY’s Shs4.7trn. Of the Shs6.4trn, a larger fraction will naturally go to Kagina’s UNRA which is expected to pave 600km of roads. She will also have control over another Shs58bn availed for tourism roads.
Kagina’s strength is multi-pronged but we shall highlight three aspects of her clout. She boasts of the track record of being a reformist who turned URA into one of EA region’s most admired, envied and benchmarked upon government entities. She reformed it from the inefficient and corruption-riddled organization it once was.
Yet on top of the huge allocation she controls, Kagina is also deeply connected and well known to people who matter in First Family and top echelons of political power in this country (with exception of Gen Saleh). She has their trust, attention and ear meaning even when any shortcomings are associated with her, she won’t struggle having audience to explain herself.
It’s also true people she has mentored continue to dominate authority positions at entities like URA, KCCA etc. She also has plenty of spiritual backing of many big-name Pentecostal pastors including Robert Kayanja. Her performance challenges at UNRA notwithstanding, Kagina still commands respect among development partners implying you can only write her off at your own peril.
JANE KIBIRIGE LUBOWA
She by title is the clerk to parliament and also the accounting officer of the Parliamentary Commission (vote 104). At her disposal is Shs688bn to be spent in the next 365 days mostly on remuneration and welfare of MPs who are responsible for appropriation of money to be spent under the 797 votes manned by the different accounting officers. The Shs688bn reflects an increment from the Shs497bn Kibirige spent in the last FY2018/19.
Besides being responsible for the well being of MPs, who influence lots of decision-making in this country, Kibirige also oversees a payroll that has some of the country’s highest paid civil servants. The staunch Catholic, who previously served as Academic Registrar MUST, has been clerk since February 2012 and there are strong forces already lobbying to ensure her contract isn’t renewed.
The PS Local Government Ministry is very powerful for a number of reasons. Firstly, he supervises all district chairpersons, CAOs, Municipal Mayors and Town Clerks. And below him, according to Muhakanizi’s list, are 296 other accounting officers for the district LGs and Municipalities. He is responsible to ensure policy leadership over all these LGs and his mandate is to ensure service delivery in all aspects be it health, education, security etc because each of the LG units is obliged to deliver on all these parameters.
Kumumanya is the man to technically oversee the rolling out of the new cities that has lately been a very controversial subject. It’s a vast docket but Kumumanya approaches his assignment with energy and enthusiasm. In the next 12 months, his sector will have Shs2.8trn to spend on service delivery throughout the country.
Yet there is much more making Kumumanya powerful. A close confidant of the First Lady, Kumumanya does much more for the President than just his conventional duties at the MoLG. He undertakes regular classified assignments for the President within and outside Uganda and he always delivers to the satisfaction of the big man from Rwakitura who is renowned for setting high standards for those he is convinced can deliver high quality work.
Among fellow PSs, Kumumanya is admired for his strict adherence to discipline, time, the rules and of course deep connections in the First Family. Some perceive him as the ears of the big man in the local government sector.
Ironically, despite being a devout NRM man, Kumumanya works very well with LG leaders and Mayors who are opposition with whom he has mutual respect. He is hands-on and likes being in the field. His tenure has largely been incidence-free except the recent upsets that saw Parliament block the procurement of 2000 motorcycles the vote-seeking President badly wants delivered for Town Councils and Sub County leaders. MPs argued procurement best practices had been flouted.
He is the PS Energy Ministry under which fall many powerful entities like Petroleum Authority of Uganda, National Oil Company, UEGCL, UEDCL, UETCL, ERA, REA and others. The vastness of the sector explains why Shs2.9trn will be available for spending in the next 12 months under Kasande’s overall policy leadership and technical guidance.
Just like UNRA, his sector is home to some of the largest infrastructure projects like Karuma Dam which are is on a scale that is simply unprecedented in Uganda’s history. It’s also the sector charged with overseeing continued exploration and commercial production of oil in Uganda, a development the President hopes will among other things diminish the country’s debt stock from the current $11.5bn (or Shs43trn/equaling 41.5% of our total GDP) to zero making Uganda debt-free. Shs2.9trn reflects significant increase from last FY’s Shs2.4trn.
As ex-President Binaisa noted, it’s a sweet addictive feeling to be in the chair (entebe ewoma) yet Byengoma is among the very few who have ever wished to ease out of such a juicy job. Years back, highly connected Byengoma walked over to the President and said to him “sir I don’t like this job of being accounting office/Permanent Secretary anymore and kindly find someone else.”
Museveni, mostly used to people wanting to cling on, couldn’t believe this. He persuaded her and Byengoma stuck to her guns only to change her mind after the H.E. brought in some other elders in the civil service to persuade her to continue occupying the chair, she inherited upon death of Noble Mayombo.
Perceiving it as a complex job that exposed her to a lot of unnecessary pressures, Byengoma reluctantly continued occupying the chair but would often placate herself by delegating her Under-Secretary Edith Buturo to execute most of the accounting officer roles. In fact, with her active backing, Buturo is now the accounting officer for this FY during which a whopping Shs3.6trn is going to be available for spending under the Defense and Security sector.
A large chunk of this (Shs1.9trn) is going to be spent under classified expenditure clearly placating the accounting officer against having to answer any accountability questions. The Finance Ministry officials acquiesced to enlarging the Defense allocation from last FY’s Shs1.7trn to Shs3.6trn after the President told them it was necessary because of the threats he had discussed and agreed upon with fellow generals during a recent high command meeting.
He is amiable and reclusive yet very powerful. Substantively serving as the Accountant General, Semakula is the only person appearing on Muhakanizi’s list with mandate to serve as accounting officer for more than one dockets. These include being accounting officer for Treasury Operations, the Petroleum Fund and the Contingency Fund.
As Accounting Officer for Treasury Operations, he will be charged with the management of Shs10.6trn which is available to be expended in repaying a fraction of both the external and internal debt for the next 12 months.
Shs10.6trn he will be handling is simply the largest single allocation under the new FY budget. It’s even larger than Kagina’s Works. The Petroleum Fund is equally vast and can only become larger as the country goes into commercial oil production. In the interim, Semakula will be responsible for the several billions of dollars oil companies are to pay for the recently licensed round of exploration prospecting for new oil finds.
She is the State House Comptroller with the full ear of the President. Yet besides being part of the Shs2.1trn allocated under Public Sector Management (covering OPM, Public Service, President’s Office etc), Nakyobe accesses much more including through the rampant supplementary expenditures State House perennially keeps asking for.
She is also personally overseeing the President’s donations, scholarship scheme and interventions like Skilling the Girl/Boy child especially in the ghettoes of Kampala. On financial matters, she also oversees the classified expenditures handled or dispensed by the likes of Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso and the office of PPS Molly Kamukama.
She recently deepened her relationship with MPs on the Presidential Affairs Committee when she offered scholarships to children from their voters’ families. Each MP had to politically identify beneficiaries in a manner that strengthens his or her 2021 reelection. It’s very unlikely MPs on this relevant committee will have any more appetite to raise hard questions relating to State House budget.
Others include Doreen Katusime whose tourism sector, despite being allocated a mere Shs193bn (plus the Shs58bn for tourism roads/compared to past FY’s Shs32bn), is increasingly becoming the leading export earner for Uganda bringing in $1.02bn last FY alone. In policy terms, she oversees many agencies including UWA, UTB, UWEC and others.
At Shs1.6trn in the new FY, Kagole Kivumbi (under whose tenure the Judiciary funding has significantly gone up) is also another powerful accounting officer that must be referenced upon. He acted very decisively when he had just come into the Judiciary and cracked the whip hard resulting into the transfer of dubious characters (previously thought to be untouchable) who had turned the sector into their thiefdom.
Being one whose Certificate of Compliance (CoC) guides MPs during appropriation and budgeting process (regarding compliance to Vision 2040 objectives), NPA’s ED Joseph Muvawala can’t be overlooked among accounting officers with a lot of clout. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at email@example.com).