Tension is brewing among the Ministry of Education staff and management following secret investigations into alleged corruption by several senior officials at the ministry.
Our sources say trouble started after police detectives visited the ministry and carried out investigations without informing the implicated officials. The staff reportedly accused the permanent secretary, Dr Rose Nassali Lukwago, of inviting the detectives without their knowledge, a claim she denies.
“The only investigation I know is regarding BoU [Bank of Uganda]. The CID have completed their investigation and I have received a copy for my information,” Dr Nassali said.
She declined to say what the findings were. “I have sent it for consumption of other departments,” she said.
According to documents seen by Saturday Monitor, the investigators had been briefed to look into several transactions in the ministry, including the award of tenders, procurements, internal audit and the transport department.
The documents show Dr Nassali complaining that the transport department is “one of the most corrupt departments” involved in payment of ghost suppliers and false accountability.
“ I have written to Bwoch [Accountant General who retired last month] requesting for the immediate transfer of my PA [Principal Accountant] and other suspected staff that are deployed from Accountant General’s Office.”
In the brief, Dr Nassali appears to question $1.1 million (about Shs3 billion) that was being processed to pay Fountain Publishers who supplied books to the ministry. Bank of Uganda queried the payment and asked the ministry to explain the disparity in some documents. Sources say Dr Nassali asked police to investigate the transaction but did not inform her undersecretary, Ms Doreen Katusiime, who had cleared the payments.
The central bank asked the PS to explain the anomalies in the paperwork but Dr Nassali reportedly arranged a meeting with the bank officials without alerting Ms Katusiime in advance. In the meeting, Ms Katusiime was tasked to explain to Bank of Uganda officials but she reportedly had no clue on how to respond.
It was later discovered that Ms Katusiime had sanctioned the payment to Fountain Publishers. However, Fountain Publishers presented shipment documents from India, which raised the central bank’s suspicion. The bank refused to okay the payment.
Other areas of investigation are the human resources department which is accused of inflating the register of retired workers with ghost names in “connivance with the Ministry of Public Service”.
The brief to police investigators, a copy of which Saturday Monitor has seen, also asked detectives to “fully investigate all transactions and payments made during Ms Katusiime’s tenure from June 2013-February 2014. The investigations are to be extended to Mr Lubwama, the head of accounts in the ministry.
“Doreen is the one still handling IFMS [Integrated Financial Management System] since I need to be trained first. However, Mr Lubwama wanted to train me; I refused because he had sent somebody to sweet-talk me that he will make for me money, I really feared due to that,” the memo reads.
However, Dr Nassali insists she did not make such remarks against Mr Lubwama but confirmed she declined his offer to train her in using IFMS. She also denied asking for an investigation into all transactions made by Ms Katusiime when she was acting PS.
Dr Nassali said the ministry is now more transparent than before and it’s the reason all these issues are now coming out.
Mr Francis Xavier Lubanga was PS at the Education ministry before Dr Nassali. He is now at the Health Service Commission. Dr Nassali has had a long running feud with Mr Lubanga after the latter interdicted her over alleged concealment of wrongdoing and incompetence.
At that time, Dr Nassali was director of Education Standards Agency at the ministry.
Staff speak out
When Saturday Monitor visited the ministry offices, most of the staff we talked to claimed they learnt of the ongoing investigations when detectives questioned them individually. They say they should have been alerted about the investigation to enable them respond to the investigators’ queries appropriately.
A detective involved in the investigation said police had not received formal instructions from the ministry but were simply asked by the PS to look into various suspicious areas.
One of the areas they had been tasked to investigate is the recently-concluded four-year African Development Bank project codenamed ADB IV. Dr Nassali said while she did not ask police to investigate ADB IV project, detectives had earlier been investigating the same project. Although AfDB cleared the project and gave the ministry more money for another five-year project, police have been summoning project staff for questioning.
Sources attributed the current unfriendly work relations at the ministry to the feud between Dr Nassali and Mr Lubanga (pictured), claiming that Nassali is persecuting public servants who closely worked with Mr Lubanga when he was still at the ministry. Dr Nassali denies the claims.