Road Fund Board, Staff In Bitter Clash Over New ED Recruitment

Road Fund Board, Staff In Bitter Clash Over New ED Recruitment

Staff of the Uganda Road Fund (URF) and the board Chairperson are embroiled in a bitter clash over the recruitment process of the Executive Director.

According to a petition by members of staff addressed to Matia Kasaija, the Minister Of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Board Chairperson, Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Board Member, Ms. Rosemary Owino are accused of a cocktail of ills with the top most being mismanaging the whole ED recruitment process with intent to create turmoil at the fund.

“Hon. Minister, we the staff of Uganda Road Fund (URF) refer you to Section 14 (3) of the URF Act 2008, “Functions of the Board”, which states that “the Board shall be responsible and accountable to the Minister [of Finance] for ensuring efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and propriety in – (a) the utilization of public funds under this Act, (b) the conduct of its business; and (c) the operations and activities of the Fund,” the petition dated September 9th 2019 reads in part.

They cite revenge and bias in accusing Merian and co of mismanaging the recruitment of the next Road Fund ED.

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It adds, “Cognisant of the aforementioned clause, we the staff of URF are extremely concerned by the misconduct of the Board Chairperson, Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Board Member, Ms. Rosemary Owino in the ongoing gross mismanagement of the recruitment of the next Executive Director (ED) of URF; and hereby seek your urgent intervention to mitigate the abysmal Corporate Governance.”

Their petition follows another addressed to the minister in November 2018 in which the staff raised the issue with Kasaija.

Following their concerns last year, the government ombudsman commenced a probe of Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha that resulted in her partial suspension in December 2018.

“Hon. Minister, the staff of URF on 27th November 2018 wrote to you a letter with ref: URF/ED/SM/025/18 (attached – Annex 1); in which we highlighted to you the abysmal Corporate Governance failures within the URF Board emanating from the gross misconduct of the Board Chairperson Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha supported by Ms. Rosemary Owino (Board Member). You subsequently stopped the Chairperson from undertaking any further Corporate Governance activities at URF,” the petition reads.

Merian returned to office in July on the advice of the Finance minister who is the only person permitted by law to fire and disappoint the URF ED.

However, the URF staff claim that since her return, the board chairperson has done nothing but engineer a revenge process to bias the whole recruitment process of the next ED.

With the current ED’s tenure winding, the staff further claim that Sebunya as the Board Chairperson is using this time to create turmoil at the fund. Michael Odongo Okune is the current ED and his term ends next month.

While appearing before parliament in April this year, Odongo acknowledged conflicts among board members particularly over recruitment, procurement among others, which have affected the performance of the fund in the past one year.

They cite an instance where she rushed to place an advert in the press for a new ED without consulting the minister in accordance with the law.

“Hon. Minister, in pursuit of revenge against URF staff, the Board Chairperson rushed and held a non-quorate 89th (special) Board meeting on 23rd August 2019 and subsequently illegally sanctioned a misleading advert that appeared in the New Vision newspaper of 6th September, 2019 page 28 (attached – Annex 4) to recruit the next ED; without consulting your office and all relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, Ms. Rosemary Owino (Board member) undertook URF procurement officer roles and during the aforementioned non-quorate board meeting phoned New Vision newspaper to book advertising space without a Board Minute and breaking all procurement procedures! The misleading advert which has already led URF to incur nugatory expenditure is devoid of technical expert input and is extremely fertile ground for litigation,” the staff’s petition adds.

The URF Act 2008 sets out the relevant qualifications/fields of expertise of the ED of URF / Secretary to Board as clearly stipulated in Sections 9 and 17 (2).

Merian did not consult the minister and key stakeholder ministries recognized in the URF Act 2008 (MoWT and MoLG).

They also accuse her of; Abuse of the URF Human Resource Manual, Misinformation and criminality in the Advert and adulterating educational and experience requirements of the position of the ED of URF, disregarding recommendations from the European Union Technical Assistance Team and Disregarding professional institution standards and statutory requirements among others.

URF staff have since put forward a list of demands they want the minister to back if normalcy is to return to the fund.

They want Merina to “her illegal and diluted advert so that a professionally prepared advert consistent with good Corporate Governance principles and in full compliance with URF Act 2008, URF Human Resources Manual, and Board Manual; and devoid of errors is issued. The existing advert is litigious and misleading.”

Rosemary Owino, a board member who has been accused of conspiring with Merian to devour the recruitment process should be withdrawn, according to one of the letter.

According to staff, the two do not “…possess the requisite recruitment proficiency. The recruitment of the next ED of URF should be handled by a competent authority commencing with internal candidates as per Section 5.8.4 of the URF Human Resources manual and Board minute 205/52/2015.”

The staff also want the IGG’s report on probe into the misconduct of Merian released and that the Inspectorate of Government should invoke provisions of the Whistleblowers Protection Act (Section 9) so that URF staff are protected from any further adverse actions from Merian.

Kasaija has also been asked to Invoke Sections 11 (3b & c) of the URF Act 2008; to ensure that road maintenance programs are not affected by the current poor Corporate Governance practices; and imminent litigation under Section 5 (2b) of the URF Act 2008.

According to the law, the Road Fund is also mandated to finance routine and periodic maintenance of public roads.

Below is the full petition

 

 

Hon. Matia Kasaija (MP)

Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development

Plot 2 – 12, Apollo Kaggwa Road

P.O. Box 8147

KAMPALA

 

GROSS MISMANAGEMENT IN THE RECRUITMENT OF THE NEXT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (ED) / SECRETARY TO BOARD OF THE UGANDA ROAD FUND (URF)

Hon. Minister, we the staff of Uganda Road Fund (URF) refer you to Section 14 (3) of the URF Act 2008, “Functions of the Board”, which states that “the Board shall be responsible and accountable to the Minister [of Finance] for ensuring efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and propriety in – (a) the utilization of public funds under this Act, (b) the conduct of its business; and (c) the operations and activities of the Fund”. Cognisant of the aforementioned clause, we the staff of URF are extremely concerned by the misconduct of the Board Chairperson, Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Board Member, Ms. Rosemary Owino in the ongoing gross mismanagement of the recruitment of the next Executive Director (ED) of URF; and hereby seek your urgent intervention to mitigate the abysmal Corporate Governance.

 

Hon. Minister, the staff of URF on 27th November 2018 wrote to you a letter with ref: URF/ED/SM/025/18 (attached – Annex 1); in which we highlighted to you the abysmal Corporate Governance failures within the URF Board emanating from the gross misconduct of the Board Chairperson Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha supported by Ms. Rosemary Owino (Board Member). You subsequently stopped the Chairperson from undertaking any further Corporate Governance activities at URF vide your letter of 6th December 2018 (Ref:  ISS 85/327/01) hereby attached (Annex 2). Furthermore, as per your letter dated 18th January, 2019; and cognizant of Sections 11 (3b & c) of URF Act 2008; the Chairperson ‘stepped aside’ for three (3) months pending investigations into her misconduct by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and Office of Auditor General (OAG).

 

Hon. Minister, the Chairperson (Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha) returned to office as per your letter ref ISS. 85/327/01 dated 2nd July 2019; (Annex 3) on the basis that you were awaiting conclusion of investigations by IGG into her misconduct. Unfortunately, the misconduct of Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha since resumption as Board Chairperson has worsened; and she is using every available opportunity to seek revenge and create further Corporate Governance turmoil at URF.

 

The need has now arisen to recruit the next ED of URF; as the incumbent is completing his 10 (ten) years of service as per URF Act, Section 19 (1); and the Board Chairperson has seen this as a timely opportunity to bias the process to her whims as she has only 6 (six) months left till the end of her non-renewable term.

 

Hon. Minister, in pursuit of revenge against URF staff, the Board Chairperson rushed and held a non-quorate 89th (special) Board meeting on 23rd August 2019 and subsequently illegally sanctioned a misleading advert that appeared in the New Vision newspaper of 6th September, 2019 page 28 (attached – Annex 4) to recruit the next ED; without consulting your office and all relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, Ms. Rosemary Owino (Board member) undertook URF procurement officer roles and during the aforementioned non-quorate board meeting phoned New Vision newspaper to book advertising space without a Board Minute and breaking all procurement procedures!. The misleading advert which has already led URF to incur nugatory expenditure is devoid of technical expert input and is extremely fertile ground for litigation as a result of the following fundamental errors:

 

  1. The proposed and extremely diluted academic qualifications and experience requirements are completely contrary to Sections 9 (1) and 17 (2) of the URF Act 2008; URF Human Resources manual and URF regulations.
  2. It is incoherent to request for academic qualification requirements such as a combined degree in Accounting and Management which already indicates targeting of a particular individual!
  3. Submitting applications to the Chairpersons’ personal email address is wrong and creates personal conflicts; and gives her the opportunity to pursue her personal interests and ‘bargaining power’ with potential candidates.
  4. The salary of the ED of URF is not negotiable and is set out in the Human Resources Manual and already the URF wage bill is ‘locked’ for the next three (3) years in the Mid Term Expenditure Framework for URF Operational costs. It is wrong to mislead potential candidates that URF salaries and packages are negotiable. The salary scales are clearly stated in the Human Resources manual and URF staff benefits and packages are predetermined and non-negotiable.
  5. Requesting potential applicants to merely possess ‘affiliation’ to a professional institution is misleading and wrong. Standard industry professional qualifications recognized by law only encompass full Registration and/or full Certification. Graduate trainees straight out of university undergoing training are already affiliated to their professional institutions and are therefore eligible candidates! Furthermore, ‘affiliation’ can also attract honorary degree holders (e.g PhD honoris causa) and honorary professional institution registrants.
  6. Numerate discipline requirement means that all degrees/academic qualifications which encompass basic/elementary mathematics are eligible; and this mismatches the academic requirements for ED position as per URF Act 2008 and Human Resources manual. Numerate disciplines include a very wide range of subjects such as physics, chemistry, biology, statistics, pharmacy, agriculture, social sciences etc. The requirement for a degree in a numerate discipline is misleading, meaningless and creates confusion for potential applicants and interviewers; and is very fertile ground for litigation!.
  7. Timelines for application submission have been set at three (3) weeks from the date of the advert which appeared in only one local Newspaper (New Vision) and for one day. Minimum timelines should be at least Four (4) weeks as stipulated in Section 5.8.2 of the Human Resources manual. The short timelines and local circulation automatically excludes potential candidates residing outside Uganda and indeed favours the Chairpersons’ already identified candidate. During commencement of URF operations in 2009, the advert for the ED position run for one month and appeared in regional newspapers, the Economist and on international platforms including the World Bank website; and the recruitment process was extremely transparent and handled professionally by a competent recruitment consultant procured by the European Union technical assistance team.
  8. The diluted advert also means that honorary degree holders who ‘obtained’ their degrees without original independently verified academic contribution to knowledge and/or publications are eligible (e.g PhD honoris causa).

 

Hon Minister, in summary, the illegal advert and qualification/experience requirements therein, that appeared on 6th September 2019, as dictated by Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Ms. Rosemary Owino was sanctioned at a non-quorate board 89th (special) board meeting and the contents therein are misleading and bounding to criminality. It is fertile ground for costly litigations and is contrary to Sections 9 (1) and 17 (2) of the URF Act 2008

 

The wrong and unprofessional decisions being undertaken by the Board Chairperson are very detrimental to preservation of Uganda’s road network which is worth over US$ 6.5billion; and are likely to reverse the achievements of the URF that has operated over the last ten years. The ongoing already rigged recruitment process has the following fundamental flaws:

 

  1. Abuse of the URF Act, 2008; and the approved URF Board Manual

The URF Act 2008 sets out the relevant qualifications/fields of expertise of the ED of URF / Secretary to Board as clearly stipulated in Sections 9 and 17 (2). The discussions pertinent to the qualifications of the ED of URF were completed in 2008/9 by the Sector Working Group which included the pioneer Board, Ministry of Finance, Planning & Economic Development (MoFPED), Ministry of Local Government (MoLG), Ministry of Works and Transport (MoWT) and Development Partners. However, the Chairperson in consonant with Ms. Rosemary Owino have developed their own diluted qualifications  and experience requirements for the next ED of URF which are completely in contravention of the URF Act 2008.

 

Before issuance of the advert, which has already led URF to incur nugatory expenditure, it would have been prudent to obtain technical input from yourself (Appointing authority) and the key stakeholder ministries recognized in the URF Act 2008 (MoWT and MoLG). Moreover, you also recall that the qualification and experience requirements for the ED of URF were thoroughly discussed with all stakeholders and these were used to recruit the current ED. Unfortunately, the Board Chairperson in her rushed and irregular recruitment process has undone all the previous professional efforts and created her own qualification and experience requirements for ED of URF with the sole aim of pursuing her personal interests. Furthermore, she has exposed URF to a lengthy and litigious process (Section 5b of URF Act, 2008) and future corporate turmoil for acting contrary to the ‘Principles of the Fund’ as laid out in Section 3 of the URF Act 2008.

 

The 89th (Special) Board meeting of 23rd August 2019 at which the diluted qualification and experience requirements were agreed was non-quorate (signed attendance list is hereby attached – Annex 5).  Schedule 2, Sections 15, 50 (2) of the URF Act, 2008 clearly states that Board quorum must include two board members from the Public Sector. The board members representing MoFPED and MoLG were absent (See attendance list Annex 5) .

 

Hon Minister, in summary, the diluted qualification and experience requirements as dictated by Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Ms. Rosemary Owino are illegal and contrary to the requirements of the URF Act, 2008 and the URF Board manual. Furthermore, the ‘new’ qualifications were developed without stakeholder consultations and without input of Human Resources experts. The resolutions of the non-quorate board meeting of 23rd August 2019 are illegal and have already made the URF to incur nugatory expenditure.

 

  1. Abuse of the URF Human Resource Manual

The Board Chairperson has completely ignored the qualifications for the position of the ED of URF as outlined in the URF Human Resource Manual (Appendix A). The manual specifies qualifications and required experience for all the different categories of the URF Secretariat Staff. Furthermore, the recruitment procedures as stipulated in the manual have been completely disregarded to achieve the self-interests of the Board Chairperson and without consultation with key stakeholders. As a minimum, the experience and academic qualifications of the existing ED/Secretary to Board should be used as a benchmark for the next ED; such that URF staff are recruited based on merit as stipulated in the URF Human Resources manual.

 

Hon Minister, in summary, the recruitment process as dictated and completely controlled by Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Ms. Rosemary Owino are illegal and contrary to the requirements of the URF regulations and the approved Human Resources manual.

 

 

iii.            Misinformation and criminality in the Advert and adulterating educational and experience requirements of the position of the ED of URF

The job of the ED of URF is highly technical and relates to expertise as outlined in the URF Act 2008 Sections 9, 14 and 18; however, the Board Chairperson and Ms. Rosemary Owino have deliberately adulterated the requirements to achieve their self-interests; specifically they have included subject areas which are completely irrelevant to URF operations; ignored professional registration/certification requirements and experience in funds management and Corporate Governance with the sole aim of selecting their already identified incompetent candidate. The poor Corporate Governance is further evidenced by the requirement that applications are sent to Board Chairperson’s personal email address!

 

It is inconceivable that the Board Chairperson and Ms. Rosemary Owino directed that the advert should appear in the New Vision Newspaper of 6th September 2019; even before procuring a competent recruitment firm to handle the process. As the term of office of the Chairperson expires within six (6) months; she is hell-bent in operating with impunity and not concerned about the sustainability and future stable governance of the Fund.

 

The Chairperson has now bypassed the Accounting Officer / Board Secretary and is now giving direct instructions to staff, again creating ground for further nugatory expenditure; and breaking Corporate Governance procedures. The Accounting Officer has already been warned to avoid nugatory expenditure as per MoFPED letter of 29th July (Ref: IIA/50/260/01) from PS/ST.

 

Hon. Minister, Ms.  Rosemary Owino’s Corporate Governance failures are well known to you. Indeed she has not held any Audit Board committee meeting for over two (2) years; and you wrote (see letter attached – Annex 6) to her professional body (Accountants) seeking a replacement.

 

Hon Minister, in summary, the illegal advert that appeared on 6th September 2019 as dictated by Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Ms. Rosemary Owino was sanctioned at a non-quorate 89th (special) board meeting and the contents therein are misleading and bounding to criminality.

 

 

  1. Lack of stakeholder consultation specifically MoFPED, MoWT, MoLG and Public Service Commission

The Board Chairperson supported by Ms. Rosemary Owino who do not possess expertise in Human Resources/recruitment procedures; during the non-quorate 89th (special) board meeting of 23rd August 2019 wrongfully amended and prepared new qualification and experience requirements for the position of the ED of URF without consulting their supervisors as recognized in the URF Act 2008, viz: MoFPED, MoWT and MoLG. In doing so, the Board is usurping the power of the Minister of Finance and rendering him and his office irrelevant in the process of recruiting the next ED and yet the URF Act, 2008 bestows these powers on to the Minister of Finance. It is therefore improper and disrespectful of the Board to neglect the Minister and consider him redundant in the recruitment process and yet he shall be the appointing authority of the ED in line with Section 17 (1) of the URF Act, 2008.  Operationally, the Road Fund Board reports to the Minister of Works as per Section 24 of the URF Act 2008; however, in the preparation of the diluted qualifications, the Minister of Works was not consulted. Amendment of the qualifications of the ED of URF must be undertaken in full consultation with MoFPED, MoWT and Public Service Commission.

 

Hon Minister, in summary, the illegal advert that appeared in the New Vision Newspaper of 6th September 2019 as dictated by Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Ms. Rosemary Owino was prepared without the pre-requisite required consultations which should have involved MoFPED, MoWT, MoLG and Public Service Commission.

 

  1. Disregarding recommendations from the European Union Technical Assistance Team

The Board Chairperson has completely disregarded the qualifications of ED of URF as recommended by the EU Technical Assistance team; who very knowledgeable in Road Fund operations and indeed recruited the pioneer URF/ED.

 

Hon Minister, the illegal ongoing recruitment process as spearheaded by Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Ms. Rosemary Owino is extremely biased and is not transparent and disregards the standard recruitment procedures for such a top executive position.

 

  1. Disregarding professional institution standards and statutory requirements

The Board Chairperson has completely ignored the requirements of recruiting only professionally qualified staff as stipulated in the relevant Acts of professional and regulatory bodies; and instead diluted the requirements to ‘affiliation’ rather than full professional registration/certification. It should be noted that positions of responsibility must be occupied by professionally qualified and registered /certified staff in accordance with the relevant laws governing professional standards.

 

Hon Minister, in summary, the illegal advert that appeared in the New Vision newspaper of 6th September 2019 as dictated by Ms. Merian Sebunya and Ms. Rosemary Owino proposes that the ED of URF does not have to be Registered or Certified by the relevant professional and regulatory bodies and should only be an ‘affiliate’.

 

vii.          Lack of consideration of the highly qualified and experienced internal candidates

The Board Chairperson and Ms. Rosemary Owino at the Board’s 89th non-quorate (special) board meeting refused to consider internal candidates for no justifiable and defensible reasons. This is mainly because the highly qualified internal candidates often challenge and expose the poor corporate governance practices of the Board. All the existing Road Fund managers have never been reprimanded apart from Ms. Dorcas Apita Angom, Manager Corporate Services, who is undergoing mandatory mentorship by Ministry of Public Service as directed by Board due to her performance challenges.

 

Board minute 205/52/2015 states that all vacancies must be advertised internally; however, Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha has completely ignored existing board minutes and resolutions. Over the last ten years, government has invested heavily in the training of the existing Road Fund managers who are now of international repute. Indeed, Section 5.8.5 of the Human Resource Manual is very clear that internal candidates must be given first priority.

 

Good corporate governance experience in Uganda indicates that stable corporate institutions promote executives from within mainly because of institutional memory and detailed job understanding. This has been demonstrated in various institutions such as: URA, PPDA, NWSC, UMEME, UNBS, UNEB, PPDA, NARO and UCAA among others. Completely disregarding URF governance instruments and existing board resolutions by excluding and not prioritizing internal candidates for ED of URF position exposes URF to future turmoil; and costly litigation.

 

Hon Minister, in summary, excluding internal candidate as advocated for by Ms. Merian Sebunya Kyomugisha and Ms. Rosemary Owino is contrary to the Human Resource manual and existing board resolutions and strongly affects the continued smooth operation of URF. The Sector Working Group will vehemently resist any proposed ED of URF who is not as academically qualified or as competent as the existing cadre of staff who possess over ten years’ experience in Road Funds management with substantial trainings undertaken; and with international publications /road sector experience.

 

viii.         Conclusions and Requests to Hon. MoFPED

Hon. Minister, the Road Fund Board Chairperson has again demonstrated her abysmal Corporate Governance as evidenced in the ongoing and relentless interference with recruitment of the next ED of URF which will be detrimental to URF operations and road maintenance programs going forward. The Board chairperson and Ms. Rosemary Owino are immensely conflicted and have already demonstrated bias and should not partake in the recruitment processes of the next ED of URF.

 

In summary, the Board, in its ongoing illegal process for recruitment of the next ED of URF has completely ignored Section 14 (3) of the URF Act 2008, “Functions of the Board”, which states that “the Board shall be responsible and accountable to the Minister [of Finance] for ensuring efficiency, effectiveness, transparency and propriety in – (a) the utilization of public funds under this Act, (b) the conduct of its business; and (c) the operations and activities of the Fund”.

 

We, the staff of URF who are highly qualified and experienced and have worked for the institution since inception (Ten Years) and who are to be supervised by the ‘new ED’ humbly request you to cause the following to ensure that the most competent ED is identified such that road maintenance programs are not affected:

 

  1. a) The URF Board Chairperson (Ms. MERIAN SEBUNYA KYOMUGISHA) should immediately withdraw her illegal and diluted advert so that a professionally prepared advert consistent with good Corporate Governance principles and in full compliance with URF Act 2008, URF Human Resources Manual, and Board Manual; and devoid of errors is issued. The existing advert is litigious and misleading.
  2. b) MERIAN SEBUNYA KYOMUGISHA and Ms. ROSEMARY OWINO (Board Member) should completely withdraw from the ED recruitment process as they are extremely conflicted; and they do not possess the requisite recruitment proficiency.
  3. c) The recruitment of the next ED of URF should be handled by a competent authority commencing with internal candidates as per Section 5.8.4 of the URF Human Resources manual and Board minute 205/52/2015.
  4. d) Invoke Sections 11 (3b & c) of the URF Act 2008; to ensure that road maintenance programs are not affected by the current poor Corporate Governance practices; and imminent litigation under Section 5 (2b) of the URF Act 2008.
  5. e) The report by IGG into the misconduct of Ms. MERIAN SEBUNYA KYOMUGISHA should be released.
  6. f) Extensive stakeholder consultations with Sector Working Group (MoFPED, MoWT, MoLG and development partners) should be undertaken if the ED of URF academic qualification and experience requirements are to be changed; considering that the job is highly technical and requires Civil Engineering experience.
  7. g) Request IGG to invoke provisions of the Whistleblowers Protection Act (Section 9) so that URF staff are protected from any further adverse actions from Ms. MERIAN SEBUNYA KYOMUGISHA.

 

 

Hon. Minister, this letter builds upon our previous staff letter of 27th November, 2018 with ref: URF/ED/SM/025/18.

 

We thank you and seek your urgent intervention.

 

……………………………………………………..

Staff of Uganda Road Fund

9th September 2019

 

 

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