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UEPB bosses on the spot over mismanagement

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Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde: She said she had received complaints about financial abuse and mismanagement at UEPB.  

By CHRIS OBORE

Posted  Saturday, April 5  2014 at  20:24

In Summary

Allegations. UEPB bosses are accused of misusing money meant to promote the development of trade, irregular recruitment of relatives and poor management.

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KAMPALA.
All is not well at the Uganda Export Promotion Board (UEPB) following reports of financial abuse and mismanagement.
The UEPB officials are accused of misusing money meant to promote the development of trade.
They are also faulted on recruitment of relatives to the agency and poor management of employees, leading to the resignation of at least 26 personnel.

The high staff turnover and financial abuse is blamed on the leadership style of UEPB outgoing executive director Florence Kata.
Ms Kata told the Sunday Monitor that the accusations against her are being investigated. “I am out of UEPB and there are no regrets; I don’t want ghosts following me,” she said.

The Inspector General of Government (IGG) has been petitioned to dig into the allegations after earlier efforts by police reportedly failed. A source in UEPB told the Sunday Monitor that detectives deployed from the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate were allegedly negotiated out of their original mission and instead turned into coaches tipping the suspects on how to defeat the police inquiry.

Among the contentious issues is the alleged misappropriation of Shs580 million received from the National Agricultural Advisory Services (Naads) to help rural farmers’ access regional markets. Ms Kata said an audit cleared her of any wrongdoing.

It is alleged that instead of connecting farmers to regional markets, the UEPB bosses reportedly spent money touring the region with a few selected people who were selected as farmers even when some of them were not.
The money was allegedly spent on paying consultants in Kenya, buying air tickets and paying per diem to UEPB officials. The selected officials were also purportedly chosen on the basis of their closeness to some Board members. Sunday Monitor has obtained copies of contracts signed with consultants and the vouchers for air tickets and per diem for the participants in the tours.

Ms Kata is also accused of recruiting her former househelp as a front desk officer at UEPB. The officer was given a salary higher than some of the employees with more responsibilities.

A copy of UEPB payroll seen by the Sunday Monitor shows that the front desk officer earned a take-home salary of Shs569,000 while other lower ranking officers but above a front desk officer, took home between Shs321,000 to Shs542,000.

Ms Kata, whose term of office ended last week, is also accused of diverting UEPB driver to run her personal errands. She is also accused of influencing the recruitment of her first cousin Brenda Opus Katarikawe to a senior position in UEPB.

Ms Kata denies any relations with the driver and the front desk officer but confirms that Ms Opus is her cousin.
“Brenda [Opus Katarikawe] is my cousin; she joined UEPB through competitive bidding but what is important is to check whether they are rightfully there or not,” she said.

The petitioners have asked the IGG to investigate how Ms Kata and Ms Katarikawe spent Shs180 million wired to them for the Shanghai Expo 2010. The Expo was to market Ugandan exports.

The petitioners claim that the accountability had not been given yet the two still claimed $15,000 (about Shs35m) and $5,040 (about Shs12m) respectively. In addition, Ms Kata is faulted for reportedly spending money in foreign travels which never benefited UEPB.

The Inspector General of Government (IGG) has written to the UEPB chairperson, Maria Odido, informing, her to respond to the host of allegations they had received and demanded that all the board members be ready to respond to further questions during the investigation.

The IGG says Ms Kata is also accused of messing up the recruitment process. “It is specifically alleged that the process is fraught with conflict of interest and nepotism.

The outgoing executive director, Ms Florence Kata, is accused of micromanaging the process with one Sandra Ayebare, a human resource officer, who was allegedly irregularly recruited on account of being a relative to Ms Kata,” reads a February 24 letter signed by Mr David Makumbi, the director for Ombudsman affairs at the Inspectorate of Government.

Documents seen by this newspaper also reveal a controversial vehicle maintenance expenditure in which cars were repaired nearly every week. Sources in UEPB said vehicle repairs were one of the avenues through which money was siphoned.

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