MINISTER BABALANDA TELLS MPS HOW SHE FOILED PLOT BY FORMER BOARD TO STEAL MORE FUNDS ON UPPC ACCOUNTS!
Cabinet sitting yesterday at State House Entebbe approved names of eight people as new board members for the Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation (UPPC).
According to the minister for the presidency whose docket supervises UPPC, hon. Milly Babalanda, the approved names include (veteran scribe) Joachim Buwembo (Wakiso), Sadat Kisuyi (Bugweri), Jolly Kamugira Kaguhangire (Mbarara), Alice Muhoozi (Rukungiri) and Andrew Kibaya (Wakiso). Others are Hellen Icumar Judith (Katakwi), Karugaba Jimmy (Kabalore) and Bukenya Nooh (Butambala).
“The process of identifying these individuals has lasted for three months because we needed to be careful about the composition of the board to avoid previous mistakes” Babalanda told the parliamentary committee on commissions and statutory bodies (COSASE) chaired by Joel Ssenyonyi.
The minister had appeared before this ccommittee to respond to it’s queries arising from the auditor general’s report.
Among the issues raised by members was absence of the UPPC board, substative managing director and other issues related to the governance and management of the corporation.
Babalanda explained that the old board has been on interdiction for more than a year and it’s term expired on October 31 2022. In absence of the substative board, the minister explained that she assumed the board powers as per the UPPC Act which empowers the minister to be caretaker to avoid paralyzing the operations of the corporation.
The minister told the committee that the previous board is currently in court over mismanagement of the corporation and abuse of office.
“I had to stand in to undertake the responsibilities of the board because UPPC being a corporate entity, cannot suspend it’s business due to lack of a board” she told members.
Babalanda attributed the hitherto absence of the board to ongoing criminal investigations in the corporation which started on August 16 2021 following her request. She said this led to the interdiction of board members and some staff on request by police when they interfered with investigations. She said her decision was based on a whistleblower who alerted her ministry of alleged corruption in UPPC by board members in connivance with some staff. So heinous the scandal was, that the same group had hatched a plot to fraudulently withdraw more billions from UPPC accounts.
“I immediately forwarded this intelligence to CID director on August 16 2021 requesting for investigations into corruption allegations because it’s not my mandate to investigate corruption cases” she said adding that when she called a meeting the following day for the board and staff of UPPC, majority board members snubbed that meeting.
“Surprisingly, on Sunday August 22 2021, some board members and staff were seen suspiciously making off from the UPPC offices with files containing UPPC documents” she said.
She said when the group boycotted her meeting and coupled with their suspicious actions on August 22, this prompted her to interdict them the following day on August 23 to deny them access to other files. The minister said on that very day, the CID director asked for interdiction of more staff for interference with investigations in a letter referenced FAP/CID 50/154!
STATUS OF MANAGING DIRECTOR
About the status of the managing director, the minister admitted that the absence of this officer is one of the challenges she faces as a supervisor of UPPC. She said one of the reasons the corporation is underperforming is because of absence of managing director who’s a full time employee unlike the board.
She however, attributed the delay to appoint a new managing director to legal implications as there was no board in place. Secondly, the contract for the previous managing director Prof. Tom Davis Wasswa who was on interdiction only expired while he was on interdiction reading from August 23 2021.
“On December 3 2021, after confirming that one of the senior managers at UPPC Mr. Kenneth Oluka; the editor was not involved directly in the scandals under current investigation, I assigned him the role of acting MD because he’s an insider with vast knowledge of business at UPPC replacing Mr. Tweheyo James whom I had posted there as a temporary caretaker of UPPC” she said.
She however, explained that she didn’t appointed Oluka as substative managing director but it was rather an assignment to him. Babalanda revealed that the former MD Wasswa indeed admitted that there were mistakes made and asked for pardon and also to be allowed to resign honorably as MD but she rejected this request after consulting widely.
“Hon.. members, there are five files under police investigation. Investigation for one file (involving theft of money paid by electoral commission to UPPC was completed and suspects charged. Among these included Prof. Tom Davis Wasswa. The investigation on four other files are still ongoing” she told members, but however informed members that one of the challenges delaying the process is the fact that some of the key suspects involved are still at large” she said.
The minister described the situation at UPPC as a crisis as a result of many senior managers being implicated in ongoing corruption investigations and others already in anti-corruption court. She said the investigations created a huge gap in leadership of the corporation but however, said this investigation was in national interest to clean the corporation.
She said she has already okayed UPPC to recruit staff as per their proposal but with strict adherence to the law in order to address understaffing.
Babalanda told members who were satisfied with her submission and interventions that for the time she has been minister and overseer of UPPC, she has noted some challenges with the biggest being that of internal fights.
“There are many internal fights that will require dealing with probably through restructuring of the organization. This will be a priority and I will deal with many areas of concern” she pledged.
Babalanda however, said that in spite of the challenges including not making a lot of money in FY2021/22, UPPC performed well in other areas. One of them was that no single coin was stolen, there were repairs made for some machines abandoned by earlier management, tax arrears cleared, bailing out some ministries with printing services following budget cuts due to effect of COVID-19 and a process to procure modern machines to make UPPC compete favorably on the market were done.
The other milestone was for the corporation to engage in private sector business unlike before when it largely depended on government jobs.
USPC JOINT VENTURE DEAL
About this issue, Babalanda told members that she had not fully read the agreement and in addition, some information was still lacking and yet it was not started during her reign. She however, said the joint venture is for the good of the country.
“Governmnent is spending a lot of money in printing security-related documents outside the country. This is an opportunity for us to build capacity in printing security-related documents” she said citing fruits of the venture as being that of reducing congestion during acquisition of driving licenses and passports. She added that biggest achievement for the year 2021 was the fact that construction of the security printing factory under the joint venture was started.
The committtee members including Elijah Okupa, Yusuf Nsibambi, Gafabusa Richard commended the minister for the presentation and her being remorseful on some of her mistakes.
“We thank the minister for appointing a representative board. It has members from all regions. This is good for our country” MPs including Okupa said.