The meeting that sealed the fate of the administrator of the Uganda Telecom (UTL), Mr Bemanya Twebaze, was reportedly rocked by tension and bitter exchanges between the Ministry of Finance officials as President Museveni watched.
A highly placed source told Daily Monitor that the Wednesday meeting at State House Entebbe was attended by Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, Finance minister Matia Kasaija and the Minister of State for Privatisation and Investment, Ms Evelyn Anite.
Mr Museveni had been chosen as a mediator in the year-long standoff at UTL and to determine whether or not to renew Mr Bemanya’s contract.
Mr Muhakanizi reportedly backed Mr Bemanya to continue as the UTL administrator while Mr Kasaija and Ms Anite wanted him out.
According to the source, Mr Museveni sat watching as the two rival sides battled each other over Mr Bemanya’s fate as administrator of UTL. Mr Bemanya is also the director of Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).
“They quarrelled and exchanged bitterly, with Anite accusing Muhakanizi of deceiving the President about Bemanya and UTL,” the source said.
It is said during the meeting which lasted nearly four hours, Mr Muhakanizi spoke first, praising Mr Bemanya and requesting for his contract to be renewed.
However, when it was Mr Kasaija’s turn to speak, he reportedly accused Mr Bemanya of being disrespectful to the Ministry of Finance.
Ms Anite reportedly concurred, saying Mr Bemanya and his team had on several occasions scorned Finance ministers often referring to “our decisions as useless”.
Ms Anite reportedly insisted that since Mr Bemanya and group had chosen to go to court, disregarding the supervising ministers, they should revert to court for the renewal of his contract.
Before sunset, the source said it was clear that Mr Bemanya would leave UTL, with a search for a new administrator of the national telecommunication company, endorsed by the President.
How it all started
Before the Wednesday meeting, two rival camps for and against Bemanya had emerged. Mr Bemanya was backed by the Attorney General, Mr William Byaruhanga, Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana and Justice Minister Gen Kahinda Otafiire and Mr Muhakanizi.
Ms Anite and Mr Kasaija were on the opposite side.
Recently, Mr Muhakanizi delivered a draft of contract to Mr Kasaija to sign for renewal of Bemanya’s tenure. However, the minister declined to sign it, preferring to first consult Ms Anite. Ms Anite advised that the matter be handled by the President and noted that they did not know what would be in the report of the Auditor General, who is currently auditing UTL, which would be the basis for a decision on whether to renew Mr Bemanya’s contract.
The source said Ms Anite argued that since the audit process is still ongoing in the face of an expiring contract, the best way out was the President to whom the ministers and Muhakanizi have easy access, to provide guidance.
So a meeting with the President was proposed and Wednesday was the day.
During the meeting, sources said Mr Muhakanizi told the President that there was need to renew Mr Bemanya’s contract to save UTL from liquidation, adding that if that did not happen, the company would collapse.
He also reportedly said UTL has a PTA loan, which would suffer litigation since it is directly linked to Mr Bemanya. At this point, the source said Ms Anite told off Mr Muhakanizi. “She said Mr President, this man is giving you wrong advice; I am aware that the PTA loan is a secure loan and there is no way it can be tied to Bemanya’s contract,” the source quoted Anite as saying.
The source said Ms Anite told Mr Museveni that whenever the Finance ministers raised accountability queries, Mr Bemanya would ran to court and that he appeared only answerable to court.
Ms Anite reportedly wondered why Mr Bemanya would return to Finance to renew his contract if he was answerable to court.
Ms Anite and Mr Kasaija accused Mr Bemanya of insubordination. The dual, reportedly convinced the President, who accepted a proposal to look for a new administrator for UTL. The source said at this point Mr Muhakanizi suggested that the matter be handled by the Attorney General, but Ms Anite objected to the proposal.
“She told the President that this is a trick; all those guys are just hoodwinking you; they also renewed Bemanya’s contract nine months before it had expired,” Ms Anite reportedly told the President.
The source said after the bitter exchange between his officials, the President said he would consult his own lawyers on the matter.
Mr Museveni then gave a go-ahead to Mr Kasaija to separate the office of the URSB director and that of the UTL administrator.
On November 8, Mr Kasaija wrote to Mr Bemanya informing him of the need for “a new administrator to be obtained after expiry of the current tenure on November 22, 2019”.
Efforts to reach Ms Anite, Mr Muhakanizi and Mr Kasaija for a comment about the reported exchanges were futile.