Museveni’s 98 advisers

Even with a fleet of presidential advisers, Uganda still ranks low in various key development aspects. Are these men and women failing to perform, or is the President not listening to their advise?

Sunday October 27 2013

President Museveni.

President Museveni. File photo 

By Charles Mwanguhya

Kampala- President Museveni has 98 men and women who are collectively paid Shs230 million from the national Treasury every month to give him advice. In a year, the earnings translate into Shs2.7b.
The total wage bill of the department of administration in the Office of the President, which also covers Resident District Commissioners, stands at Shs702.2 million a month, totaling to more than Shs8 billion annually.
The full time advisers and assistants also receive additional perks such as an official vehicle, a driver and in some cases, an escort.
The details are contained in the 2013/2014 Ministerial Policy Statement for the Presidency, which is under scrutiny before Parliament.

The 98 presidential advisors are not the only public officials expected to advise the President. These are in addition to the 77 Cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister and Vice President. If the 22 Permanent Secretaries (who are government’s highest ranking technical civil servants) of the respective ministries are added, President Museveni has a pool of about 200 advisors from whom to pick advice on how to govern Uganda.
At least 48 of the 98 presidential advisers are employed as full time staff, 44 are paid a retainer wage, while the status of others is unclear. The least paid presidential adviser earns Shs2.2 million while the highest paid gets Shs2.6 million every month, with the exception of former German ambassador to Uganda, Mr Claus E.P Holderbaum who is paid Shs7 million a month as Senior Presidential adviser on Special Duties.

Looking at the bulk of the advisers the President has at his disposal, Uganda should perhaps be one of the most efficiently governed countries in Africa or in the region. But Uganda is ranked as the most corrupt country among the five East African Community (EAC) states in The East African Bribery Index 2012 report by Transparency International published last year. Tanzania and Kenya are in second and third positions respectively.

Burundi is ranked fourth and Rwanda remains the least corrupt country in the region.
Uganda is also ranked 22nd among the 59 countries ranked as failed states in the world by US-based Foreign Policy (FP) magazine and the Fund for Peace global organisation. Uganda’s failing status is rated at 96 per cent slightly below Syria, at 97 per cent.
A World Health Organisation global status report on Road Safety 2013 lumped Uganda among countries with the highest accident deaths in Africa, with 2,954 people killed in road accidents in 2010, beaten only by Nigeria (4,065 deaths) and South Africa (13,768 deaths) in 2009. Uganda is also 19th among 64 countries with the highest number of road accident deaths in the world.

Uganda is top in many failure indicators of socio-economic development yet the President enjoys abundance of advice from a huge pool of “wise men and women”.

Useful or no advice?
With such a wide pool of advisors, the President should have been in a position to fix some of the basic problems facing the country. But it appears the country’s standing on several international indices is still not good.

One probable reason is that the President hardly consults them for advice. Indeed their selection is largely dependent on political and other interests rather than professional and technical merit or competence. For example the advisers are a mixture of college professors, graduates, Senior Four leavers and others with lower qualifications. Many of them have unexplainable roles.

Their roles are not based on issues, but mere names of places or institutions. It is not clear what an advisor is expected to do. For example, there is a presidential advisor on Ruharo matters, the seat of East Ankole Diocese in Mbarara and another advisor on Kigezi Diocese. It is difficult to understand what advice such a person would give the President about a place.

Though some advisors are known to meet and give advice to the President, majority of them take years on end without meeting him or even speaking to him.
Former Prime Minister Kintu Musoke, one of the advisers, refused to respond to the question on how often the president reaches him for advice. He claimed he was too busy on his farm out of town.

Brig Kasirye Ggwanga, another adviser on Buganda affairs was cagey as well. He only muttered that; “It is those who don’t know what they were appointed to do who worry about whether the President consults them or not.”
However, he added that he had been in regular contact with the President although it was not clear whether it was about offering advice to the head of state or seeking his protection.

About three months ago, there were attempts by some sections of the security establishment to evict Brig Gwanga from a house in Makindye Division in Kampala for alleged trespass. However, after several interventions from various government authorities, Brig Gwanga was spared the embarrassment of being thrown out of the house.

Controversial subject
The subject of Presidential Advisers has been controversial with questions of whether they actually advise the president and whether he takes their advice.

Critics have said these positions are only meant to give out a retirement pension for the President’s supporters or as subsistence employment when he can no longer accommodate them in Cabinet and they become cash strapped. Indeed, many former ministers are on the list of the advisers.

Former chief pilot of the Presidential helicopter, Gen. Ali Kiiza is a presidential adviser on air force.
Gen David Sejusa aka Tinyefuza, who fled the country in April after falling out with the state is still listed as President Museveni’s advisor/coordinator of Internal Security Organisation and External Security Organisation, both intelligence bodies.

Gen Sejusa’s role, however, raises more controversy given that the President has expressly said the renegade General faces treason charges if he is arrested. Yet the list of the presidential advisors with Sejusa’s name was provided for in the national budget read in June, two months after he had fled to exile.
Two weeks ago, Col Samson Mande, a former fighter in the bush war that brought Museveni to power, said from his exile in Sweden that Gen Sejusa was still on the government’s payroll and could not be easily trusted to lead a struggle for regime change in Uganda.

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