Explain EC sackings and ballot printing

Sunday July 26 2020

Left to right: EC officials Stephen Tashobya,

Left to right: EC officials Stephen Tashobya, Sam Rwakoojo and Justice Simon Byabakama appear before Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee on January 28. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA 

By EDITOR

The chairman Electoral Commission (EC), Justice Simon Byabakama, peddled half-truths about “early retirement” of high-ranking officials, and went away with it.

At a news conference on Thursday, Justice Byabakama fiddled with justification for impromptu retirement of officials at the national electoral body and offered no account of what exactly happened.

Eight EC officials, including Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the accounting officer and secretary to the commission whose contract had just been renewed, were verbally fired on Monday amid an on-going parallel Inspectorate of Government (IGG) investigation into accusations of corruption at EC.

Director finance and administrator Joseph Lwanga, Godfrey Wanyoto (head of procurement) and Jotham Taremwa (public relations officer) were also hounded out. They were removed on orders from above. To date, there is no official letter from the chief executive and the commission has not given details of the real story.

The chairman did not explain the fate of Pontius Namugera (Information Technology director), Jordan Lubega (administrator networks); and Mr Charles Musuza and Edgar Kasigwa, both data specialists. Some have returned to work and there was also no mention of the involvement of the Commission that is mandated under the law to hire or fire employees.

The Commission is also silent on the import of Article 62 which clearly proclaims that the Commission shall be free from the direction or control of any authority in the performance of its functions under the Constitution. Did EC forget that it derives its powers from the Constitution and not from any other organ be it Executive, Parliament or the Judiciary?

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The claim that the affected officials applied for early retirement “on personal grounds”, is in some way true but not the whole truth of what exactly happened. It is also true that Justice Byabakama met the affected staff and delivered the message.

If the affected officials played with public funds as a whistle-blower claims in his January 18 petition to the IGG, then, findings should be released to the public. Specifically, the country needs to know who ordered the removal of the affected staff, their crime(s) and what exactly happened to the procurement of ballot printing services, warehouse and indelible ink?

If it was not obvious before, it should be now: There is no point in telling half-truths. The fuss at the electoral body is regrettable and needs to be fixed quickly to enable the Commission focus on its core mandate – ensure regular, free and fair elections.

So solution to the current conundrum, should not in any way be about the distortions that the affected officials were not forced out, but the truth. In any case, if the sackings were correct, do not be afraid to give details of what transpired, the truth never damages a cause that is just.

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