How Ebiru walked into fire at UNBS

Former UNBS executive director David Livingstone Ebiru appears before the Parliament Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry in July 2023. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The former UNBS official shocked the nation when he claimed to have bribed the board members with Shs100 million to retain his job.

The Minister of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives, Mr Francis Mwebesa, has dismissed Mr David Livingstone Ebiru from his position as the executive director of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), with immediate effect.

In an August 4 letter, Mr Mwebesa accused Mr Ebiru of a number of offenses, which he said had tarnished the reputation of UNBS and, therefore, found him not fit to hold the position.

“The purpose of this letter, therefore, is to inform you that I hereby dismiss you from the position of Executive Director of UNBS with immediate effect; in accordance with Section 11(2), (5) (b) and (c) of the UNBS Amendment Act 2013,” he said.

However,  Mr Ebiru yesterday wondered how the minister, who first sent him on leave, chose to dismiss him while he was still  out of office. 

“I have seen it [letter] on social media because he also sent me on leave. I don’t really have much to comment on. You send somebody on leave and before a week ends, you say now we have terminated his contract,” he said.

Embattled Uganda National Bureau of Standards Executive Director Livingstone Ebiru (centre) at the Inspectorate of Government offices in Kampala on July 26, 2023. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Mr Mwebesa declined to respond to whether he had given a fair hearing to Mr Ebiru.
“Come to my office during working hours and I will tell you everything,” he said before hanging up.

The allegations
Mr Ebiru’s dismissal comes slightly over a week after the Inspector General of Government ordered the police to arrest him over abuse of office and bribery. 

He had admitted before the Parliament Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (Cosase) last month that he had bribed the board members of the UNBS with Shs100 million to retain his position as the executive director, an admission he later retracted.

Mr Ebiru, before the same committee, admitted to spending huge sums of money which the bureau collected without authorisation by both the board and the Permanent Secretary of the Finance ministry.  

Minister Mwebesa in his dismissal letter faulted the former UNBS boss for gross irregularities and said he could not continue to serve in the same position.

He said the National Standards Council met on August 1, to review and analyse the evidence concerning the allegations of misconduct, mismanagement, and misappropriation of funds. 

In the said meeting, the minister said Mr Ebiru admitted to having withdrawn and spent Non-Tax Revenue totaling lo approximately $3.2 million (about Shs11.5b) which was meant to have been remitted to the Consolidated Fund contrary to the Public Finance Management Act, 2015. 

UNBS executive director David Livingstone Ebiru appears before COSASE in July 2023. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

He is also said to have admitted to spending Shs285m, the funds deposited by traders and businesses as security contrary to the advice and guidance of the Accountant General and the Republic of Uganda Treasury Instructions 2017.

According to the dismissal letter, Mr Ebiru is further accused of making several cash withdrawals without authorisation of council and Treasury (PS/ST),  having failed to discipline five staff members who caused financial loss to the bureau totalling Shs9.282b.

“Council also noted your allegations of bribery levelled against them, while before Cosase, and your subsequent withdrawal of the same allegation. They observed that this has adversely eroded your moral standing to hold such an important responsibility of the office of executive director,”  Mr Mwebesa said.

His replacement
After he was sent on a six-months forced leave late last month, the UNBS board swiftly appointed Mr Daniel Richard Makayi Nangalama as the new acting executive director. 

A photo combo showing embattled UNBS executive director, Mr David Livingstone Ebiru (L) and Mr Daniel Richard Makayi Nangalama (R) who has been appointed as the Acting ED. PHOTOS/ FILE/ COURTESY 

Mr Makayi has until his appointment as the acting head been the deputy executive director in charge of management and financial services, the same position Mr Ebiru held before being elevated as the Executive Director.

Since his appointment three years ago, the bureau has been littered with a string of mismanagement issues ranging from contracting a non-existent company to carry out pre-export inspections on standards and quality of products on Ugandan markets, to certifying faulty products.

Mr Ebiru had served in different capacities for eight years, including as the deputy executive director and eventually as acting executive director for six months before being appointed as the substantive boss.

ccording to the available information on the UNBS website, Mr Ebiru until his elevation as the executive director had been at the bureau as deputy executive director for management and financial services, a position he held for eight years since September 2012.

Prior to joining UNBS in 2012, he had worked for over seven years as the finance and administration manager with the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) in Makerere University, while lecturing at the College of Business and Management Sciences at the  same university.

2022 audit
Ebiru’s troubles originated from the 2022 audit report that, among other things, faulted him for misappropriating Shs12.9 billion, some of the funds he admitted to have used to settle utility bills before the Cosase committee.

Cosase chairperson Joel Ssenonyi had earlier on presented printed evidence indicating that Mr Ebiru had written to Mr Robert Mwanje, a council member, inquiring whether he had received part of a bribe.

The letter reads in part: “You remember how much I forked out to our colleagues for protection during the Inspector General of Government (IGG) issue, Shs100 million, I thought this would bind us to guard each other in the future but alas.”

Mr Ebiru disclosed to the committee that he was approached by the chairperson of the council, who told him that he was the only person who could save his job.
He, however, later on retracted the same statement, but the board said he had tarnished the reputation of UNBS.

Ebiru’s education
Mr Ebiru holds a 1st Class Master of Commerce from Osmania University, Hyderabad in India. He has a degree in Bachelor of Business Administration, specialising in accounting from Makerere University. 

Ebiru also attended various professional and technical trainings in the fields of finance, accounting, audit, governance and risk management, according to the UNBS website.      

The Rotarian, who also served as the president of Rotary Club of Namugongo, has more than 15 years of leadership and management experience, having served in senior positions in high profile private and public sector institutions and academia.