Sunday May 4 2014

Permanent Secretaries are usurping Museveni’s powers

By Prof George W. Kanyeihamba

In a previous column, I examined the role of politicians and civil servants and came to the conclusion that it is not the President, Cabinet or Parliament who make the final decisions in governance but the faceless dependents of civil servants.

The Ministry of Finance and of Public Service have failed to implement the decisions and directives of the President, Cabinet and Parliament to pay retired judges their pensions and terminal benefits.

After they received those decisions and directives from their constitutionally known superiors, the Secretary to the Treasury directed both the Ministry of Public Service and the Judiciary to pay the judges’ benefits from the Pension Vote.

As the latter were in the process of doing so, the process was stopped. A serious argument then developed between the two institutions regarding the source from which to pay the benefits.
Since then, however, a number of Judicial officers have died without receiving a penny of their benefits yet the government approved them.

In 2010, President Museveni directed that retired judges who he described as few in number and who traditionally and ethically do not earn extra income, unlike other civil servants who can get extra time to do part time work, should be paid their meagre pensions.

At the time I was the chairperson of the Judiciary’s Committee on Terms and Conditions of Service, we were all jubilant in welcoming the President’s directive. Our committee corresponded to the mighty civil servants but they refused to obey the President, arguing that since they themselves were getting little, who would dare give them binding orders to pay judges what they themselves were not getting. The President’s directive was then placed on the rubbish heap of history.

Through the efforts of the Judicial Service Commission and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, a new and more comprehensive scheme was evolved, discussed and adopted by government.

It was subsequently endorsed by Cabinet and Parliament. Its implementation was entrusted to the Secretary to the Judiciary and her team. Every retired judge was contacted in writing and advised to sign acceptance of the new terminal benefits.

We all enthusiastically did so. No one knew that the scheme would be sabotaged by some officials who take themselves above the law.Apart from their astonishing wealth they own, many civil servants have been caught red-handed stealing pension money and other government funds. Permanent secretaries and executive directors of public corporations have been accused of stealing or embezzling billions of shillings. In many instances, they have cunningly manipulated the country’s governance and some are under trial.

Ugandans should not worry about the alleged enmity and rivalry between President Museveni and Premier Amama Mbabazi or their supposed supporters. Nor should they bother about half a dozen presidential aspirants who are attracting public attention these days. They are mere shadows and actors on the stage of mirage designed for them by the actual and effective rulers of Uganda, the senior civil servants.

If ever there was the usurpation of the power and interests of the people by the faceless bureaucratic forces of governance, the ministries of Uganda are seriously identified as the culprits and de factos of the Republic of Uganda.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge.