Makerere University Vice Chancellor Venansius Baryamureeba has asked Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to rescue him after police started investigating allegations that he mismanaged donor money intended for 20 PhD students.
CID Director Grace Akullo wrote to the university secretary, Mr David Muhwezi, on February 2, informing him that they received a complaint indicating Euros160,000 (Shs480m) extended to the university by the Dutch government “could have been mismanaged”.
The police also raised queries over procurement of 1,000 computers at the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology (CIT) amid allegations that a company linked to Prof. Baryamureeba, the former faculty dean, supplied the machines.
It has emerged that the money was part of Euros5.7 million or (Shs1b) that the Dutch government disbursed through the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education (NUFFIC) under a four-year project at Makerere to help academic staff from four Ugandan public universities “strengthen ICT training and research capacity”. Prof. Baryamureeba coordinated the programme before becoming acting vice chancellor in 2009.
In her letter, Ms Akullo, noted: “It is further alleged that some of the 20 PhD students who were listed as beneficiaries were also granted tuition waiver by Makerere University and some allegedly fell out of the programme because of lack of tuition.”
Daily Monitor on January 27 broke the story that the Dutch government, after being tipped off by a whistle-blower, began inquiries about probable mishandling of the project and asked government to do the same.
Suspicion emerged following revelations that a March 4, 2008 meeting of the CIT Appointments and Promotions Committee chaired by Prof. Baryamureeba waived tuition fees for the 20 beneficiaries, nine of whom later applied for a parallel Carnegie Corporation grant to complete research projects.
The police want Makerere officials to avail 13 documents, including the project’s accountability files and the agreement, and assigned detective AIP Charles Oroma to pick them up.
After receiving the police notice, Prof. Baryamureeba reportedly wrote to the university bursar, Mr Joshua Karamagi, to withhold the documents, arguing that the “CID at the moment has no place in investigating or auditing this project.”
The decision not to cooperate with police, according to him, was the agreed position of the four public universities that participated in the NUFFIC project as well as the Dutch Embassy in Kampala. An embassy official denies they consented.
“In order to keep all the records on this project safe, I will now take custody of all the records as (the former) overall project coordinator in Uganda, Prof. Baryamureeba wrote. “Whoever needs to access any of the documents has to write to me.”
In a separate letter to Mr Mbabazi, copied to President Museveni, he says he managed the scholarship scheme “ably and professionally” and wonders why detectives - he alleges Makerere’s director for Graduate Studies, Prof. Eli Katunguka, instigated them - are probing the project without any audit query.
The investigations, he noted, remind him of the “dark days” of the 70s, when people betrayed neighbours they hated by falsely notifying intelligence organisations that they were “an enemy of the state”. Both officials are allegedly jostling to be appointed the institution’s substantive vice chancellor.
Prof. Baryamureeba wrote: “If I circulated the (police) letter [requesting for accountability documents] to members of academic staff of Makerere University that are involved in research writing and grant, by the end of this year, 50 per cent will have left this country in search of academic freedom and employment.”
Ms Akullo said there is no need for the VC to panic, or hold onto the documents, if he is innocent: “It is a case that has to be investigated and there is no way they are going to stop us.”
Meanwhile, a source at the Dutch Embassy said Prof. Baryamureeba wrote to them on January 30, promising full cooperation with NUFFIC that is carrying out a parallel inquiry.