By Isaac Mufumba
The process of filling the vacant post of director general at the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has stalled after it kicked up a storm that has now sucked in the President and senior operatives of the national spy agency, Internal Security Organisation (ISO).
The job fell vacant on June 30, 2020, when the term of Dr David Kakuba Mpago ended.
The current office holder, Mr Fred Bamwesigye, was appointed to serve in an acting capacity.
The Board of Directors advertised the job on March 15, attracting 21 applicants, with seven of them shortlisted and invited for interviews that were held on May 14 at the Mestil Hotel in Makindye, a Kampala City suburb.
Prior to the interviews, the board set a pass mark of 70 per cent and agreed to recommend the top three scoring candidates to the Works and Transport minister for consideration for appointment.
“The board recommends the following candidates from whom the honourable minister shall appoint a director general,” reads the memo, which then lists Ms Olive Birungi Lumonya, Prof Tom David Wasswa, and Mr Bamwesigye as first, second and third in order of highest scores candidates during the interviews. Advertisement
The memo, a copy of which Saturday Monitor has seen, indicates that Ms Lumonya had scored 80.7 per cent, Prof Wasswa 74.7 per cent, and Mr Bamwesigye 73.4 per cent.
But with more than two months gone since the board sent its recommendations, the Works and Transport minister, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, is yet to name a substantive director general at the country’s aviation regulator, which manages Entebbe International Airport and a host of other civilian airports and aerodromes, including tourist airfields such as Pakuba in Murchison Falls National Park, and the main airstrip in Kidepo Valley National Park.
Saturday Monitor has learnt that the process was at first delayed because there was no substantive minister in office following the dissolution, on May 3, of the previous Cabinet.
It was not until June 9 that Gen Katumba Wamala was reappointed, but that has not resulted in any decisive action yet.
“Gen Katumba was driven into a corner. There are so many interests at play here and all of them are very powerful. There have been all manner of complaints and fake reports made against all of them. It makes decision-making very difficult,” a source within the Works and Transport ministry said.
It was not possible for Saturday Monitor to reach out to Gen Katumba Wamala as our calls to his mobile number went unanswered, but the Works and Transport ministry permanent secretary, Mr Waiswa Bageya, told Saturday Monitor on Thursday that the board and the ministry had played their part.
“The person best placed to speak on what is going on at CAA would have been the chairperson of the board and the minister, but what I know is that the process was done and that there is a requirement for vetting. The last part we do is to send the names of the candidates for vetting,” Mr Bageya said.
Mr Bageya indicated that the Works and Transport ministry had forwarded the names to the Security ministry for vetting.
Saturday Monitor has established that the vetting has so far been done twice, but the reports were trashed on both occasions amid concerns about their veracity, especially in light of an aggressive smear campaign that each of the contenders had been subjected to on social media since results from the interviews came into the public domain.
The contenders have been subjects of attacks that have questioned, among other things, their ages, qualifications, moral standing and suitability for the job. Some of the accusations, had they been factored in, would have made some of the contenders ineligible for interviews and the job.
The advert which invited applications for the job had indicated that the applicants had to be between 35 and 55 years of age and of good moral standing.
Saturday Monitor has learnt that the report from the first vetting process was produced on June 20, and had approved only two of the three contenders, but eight days after the report was issued, two people, Mr Boaz Nabimanya and Mr Bernard Ayesiga filed a suit in the Civil Division of the High Court, seeking an order barring CAA from “proceeding with the recruitment and appointment process of a director general and director for human resource management” pending determination of a motion for a judicial review, which was still pending in the same court.
The duo argued that advertisement of the job “without conducting an evaluation of existing internal staff” to first establish whether no one was suitable contravenes the General Terms and Conditions of Service (Regulations), 2013 (GT&CS) of CAA, which make internal advertisement for jobs mandatory.
The two argued that the board should have followed the same procedure it followed when one of the former managing directors, Mr Rama Makuza, was succeeded by his deputy, Mr Kakuba Mpago.
In the current setting, they argued, Mr Fred Bamwesigye, who was Mr Kakuba Mpango’s deputy and has been acting director general, should have simply been elevated to fill the post.
The board prepared a defense in which it argued that the job was advertised on the basis of advice from both the line minister and the President.
Attached to the defense was a February 9-letter in which Gen Katumba issued the instructions.
“At the expiry of the term of office of the former director general, Mr David Mpango Kakuba, I discussed the matter of filling the position with His Excellency the President, who guided that it should be filled through a competitive process,” Gen Katumba wrote.
The minister, who expressed concern that the board was taking so long to act on the matter, directed it to commence the process ‘immediately’.
The parties appeared in court on July 2, but Mr Nabimanya and Mr Ayesiga suddenly withdrew the suit.
The CAA, spokesperson, Mr Vianney Luggya, could not cast light on the circumstances under which the suit that was always going to benefit Mr Bamwesigye was withdrawn.
“All I know is that they were trying to sue against the process, but it was withdrawn. Now because they withdrew it, I did not go into details of the suit or even the circumstances under which they withdrew it,” Mr Luggya said.
Meanwhile, outside the courts, ISO published the second report in the second week of this month in which it arrived at the conclusion that none of the candidates was suitable for the job.
That conclusion prompted one of the contenders to petition the President through a senior official in both the government and the ruling NRM party.
“The candidate’s message to the President was that it would be okay for that person not to get the job, but that they did not want their name to be besmirched as they have a career and reputation to protect. The person argued that it would not be fair or right for them to be disqualified at the vetting level over allegations of corruption, which can be investigated and verified, especially given that there are many arms [of government] that can investigate those allegations,” a security source revealed.
The President is then said to have directed ISO Director General, Lt Col Charles Oluka, to appoint another team to carry out another vetting exercise, which is said to be underway. It was, however, not possible to establish how far the process has gone as both Lt Col Oluka and Security minister Maj Gen Muhwezi, by press time, neither picked up our calls nor responded to text messages sent to their mobile numbers.
Source Daily Monitor.