Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has ordered the Board Chairperson, Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) to rescind the appointment of Dr Anania Mbabazi as the body’s Executive Director.
Mbabazi was recently recruited by PPDA to take over from Cornelius Sabiiti whose reign is soon coming to an end.
However, in a confidential letter dated February 15, Kasaija said his decision to overturn Anania’s appointment was hinged on reports that there are “very serious issues of real, potential and substantial conflict of interest and misconduct regarding the chosen individual, since in his earlier dealings he has been involved in various government procurement/contract matters.”
The Minister cited a report by Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) which “found him (Anania) culpable for conflict of interest and serious misconduct as the project Manager of the Kiryandongo-Karuma-Kamdini road rehabilitation project, involving amounts of money that could not be substantiated.”
He added: “It appears that as a result, UNRA had to recover the money from the Project Supervisor, and Dr Anania Mbabazi had to be removed from the project.”
An investigative team at ChimpReports has discovered a letter by former UNRA boss James Okiror dated November 11, 2014 shedding light on a silent war between the roads authority and ILISO Consulting (Pty) Limited where Dr Anania was serving as a project manager.
Writing to ILISO boss Dr Martin Van Veen, Okiror said Dr Anania was “usurping the powers of other staff on site in contravention to the allocated task schedules in the contract.”
Okiror further protested Dr Anania’s conduct, saying he “signed for money (Shs171m) from the contractor purportedly for the accommodation of staff yet it was for his own benefit in contravention of Clause 37.4 of the General Conditions of the Contract.”
Okiror demanded that Dr Anania be removed from the project as the rent was collected for key staff who never appeared on the site and the amounts being claimed were higher than the prevailing market rates.
On seeing this letter, Dr Anania wrote to UNRA, saying “It was the contractor’s responsibility to provide accommodation,” adding, “and as such your reference to the consultant, leave alone to the project manager providing accommodation is tantamount to mudslinging and should be avoided for the smooth running of the project.”
Anania further stated that the “employer has no powers to appoint the authorised representative of a provider and as your instruction is not implementable” and “not acceptable to us.”
ILISO Representative, Paschke had to intervene on July 28, 2015 to end the impasse.
He admitted in a letter to UNRA dated July 28, 2015 that “it is evident that the Shs 171.2m) claimed for the accommodation of the site staff for the period May-October 2015, cannot be substantiated.”
He agreed to refund the sum of money “against future fee notes to the contractor” in installments.
This confirmation of misconduct on the part of Dr Anania would later haunt him and taint his chance of taking over management of the powerful PPDA.
In what appears a case of a power struggle at the authority, this investigative website is informed that Aloysius Byaruhanga (Manager Procurement Audit and Compliance) had been selected by DAMA Consultants, a firm hired to manage the PPDA ED recruitment process, as the best candidate only for the board to change rules at the last minute.
In the interviews, Byaruhanga scored 61.8 percent, followed by Bradford Ochieng who obtained 61.6 percent and Anania who came third with 60.7 percent. The candidates went through tests in oral skills, psychometrics, management aptitude and critical thinking abilities.
According to a classified report sent to President Museveni, the PDDA board decided that the DAMA interviews should carry weight of 40 percent while the board’s would take 60 percent.
This left many wondering why in the first place PPDA hired a firm if its input in the search for the new Executive Director was almost inconsequential.
When the board sat to conduct interviews, Byaruhanga who had come first ended up in second position with 60.8 percent with Ochieng coming third at 60.5 percent. Dr Anania was declared winner with 69.2 percent.
Highly placed sources in the president’s office say these developments unsettled Museveni who commissioned an internal security probe.
Internal Security Organization’s reports cleared Dr Anania as ‘competent’ and ‘clean’ but did not point to the UNRA saga which left Museveni baffled.
Armed with new facts, Museveni is said to have directed Minister Kasaija to “get rid of that man” (Dr Anania).
With the president’s confidence, Kasaija last Friday told PPDA that it was his “considered view that the board should consider rescinding or terminating the appointment of Dr Anania Mbabazi.”
Kasaija observed: “Also his appointment puts him in a position to make decisions for the regulator of procurement operations in Uganda, yet his earlier dealings make him well known to various providers and creates opportunities for numerous cases of potential conflict of interest once matters are referred to PPDA.”
The Minister said the rescinding of the appointment should be easy since Dr Anania has not started work yet or signed a formal contract with PPDA.
Section 17 (1) of PPDA law provides that the board appoints the ED on specified terms and conditions which are negotiated and agreed and a contract signed by both parties.
It remains unclear if PPDA will commence a new recruitment process to select the new Executive Director.
But the power struggle at the authority has left many wounded and threatened cohesion among staff and top management.
PPDA is the principal regulatory body for public procurement and disposal of public assets in Uganda.
The Executive Director serves for three years, renewable for only one further term, and on terms and conditions specified in his or her instrument of appointment.