Top EC bosses fired amidst graft probe

Electoral Commission Secretary Sam Rwakoojo (right) and spokesperson Jotham Taremwa. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • In 1996, Mr Rwakoojo was elected Member of Parliament to represent Rwemiyaga County in Sembabule District. He also served as Chairman on the Finance, Economic Planning and Development Sessional Committee 1996, and a member on the Defence and Internal Affairs Sessional Committee.

At least eight senior Electoral Commission (EC) officials, including Sam Rwakoojo, the accounting officer who doubles as the Secretary to the Electoral Commission, have been fired amid an on-going investigation into accusations of corruption.

Other affected EC officials include Director Finance & Administrator Joseph Lwanga, Godfrey Wanyoto (head of procurement); Jotham Taremwa (public relations officer); Namugera Pontius (Information Technology director), Jordan Lubega (Administrator networks); Mr Musuza Charles and Edgar Kasigwa (data specialists).

Trouble started after EC officials rejected a ballot printing bid from a German firm, Veridos Identity Solutions GMBH. In 2016, the German firm signed a joint venture with Uganda Printing & Publishing Corporation (UPPC) to print money and handle other security printing deals.

Sources close to State House said Mr Rwakoojo and team were asked to give the ballot printing deal to UPPC and in the process of verification, they discovered Veridos has a big stake in the company and the same German firm had successfully won a bid to transmit the poll results.

EC officials told Daily Monitor that it was going to look awkward for the company contracted to print ballot papers to be the same company entrusted with transmitting the poll results.

The EC officials then wrote back to Veridos asking for details of ownership and expenditures of the company. In the process, President Museveni also reportedly wrote to EC that the company has a bigger reputation beyond printing ballot papers, and is tasked with printing the national currency, passports and handling data verification for the country’s national ID.

The procurement team then evaluated the bid and rejected it. The matter later went to the State House Anti-corruption Unit and IGG, with the EC officials accused of corruption.

Daily Monitor broke the story of the disputed currency printing deal in 2016. The paper reported that the joint venture between UPPC and a German firm, signed on June 11, 2016, was negotiated amid tacit objections from Bank of Uganda Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile and some technocrats in the Ministry of Finance.

Other sources cited irregularities in the procurement of an EC warehouse at a cost of Shs16.8b. In the petition to IGG, the warehouse was procured using “sheer might” and that the procurement was queried at every stage but somehow the deal went through.

The IGG is also investigating millions of shillings spent on consultancy services for the development of an Electoral Commission communication strategy, payment to Promote Uganda Ltd to do a documentary on the history of elections in Uganda and expenditure of Shs290m to undertake PR and Media campaigns at regional level to enhance public trust and confidence in the electoral process for 2020/2021.

Although the affected EC officials and other didn’t want to go on record, some who talked to this newspaper in confidence, confirmed the story and reacted with consternation. They blamed their woes on office politics anchored on invisible faction fights between pro-Museveni people and pro-former premier Amama Mbabazi cliques.

Mr Mbabazi, a former ally was sacked as premier in President Museveni’s government in September 2014. He would later contest as presidential candidate in the 2016 general election, coming third with a paltry 1.3 per cent in a race that attracted eight candidates.

Without delving into the validity of the Museveni-Mbabazi proxy war, other sacked EC officials, without substantiating the claims, have blamed a powerful company they say has instigated the latest sackings at URA, NIRA and at the Directorate of Immigration at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

IGG weighs in
The Inspectorate of Government (IG) yesterday confirmed receipt of a petition dated January 18 in which a whistleblower detailed cases of abuse and corruption at the national electoral body.

The IG spokesperson, Ms Munira Ali, confirmed investigation into corruption accusations brought against the EC officials. She, however, clarified that the Inspectorate didn’t have a hand in the sacking of the eight EC officials since the IGG investigations are on-going.

“We received the petition on the alleged corruption at EC and investigations were sanctioned but we haven’t made any recommendations since investigations are on-going,” Ms Munira said.

“We had started but the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted our investigations,” she added.

Asked whether the President actually sacked the said EC officials, Mr Don Wanyama, the Senior Press Secretary to President Museveni, said: "I can't respond to that kind of information. If we have any information to put out, we know how to put it out."

When contacted last evening, Mr Talemwa and Mr Rwakoojo were attending different meetings and couldn't respond. But the President’s decision was communicated to the affected officials through EC chairman Justice Byabakama. He was also not available for a comment. Some of the affected officials, however, have threatened to challenge their sacking in the courts of law.

Who is Sam Rwakoojo?
Mr. Sam Rwakoojo is the Secretary to the EC, and therefore the accounting officer. He is a graduate of McPherson College, Kansas USA, with BA in Accounting Business Administration and Economics.

He has served in various organizations in and outside Uganda as an Accountant, notably with Hope International Foundation Pasadena, USA. He was also a Fiscal Analyst with LAC USC Medical Center Los Angeles, California, USA, before joining the Joint Clinical Research Centre in Uganda as Financial Controller.

In 1996, Mr Rwakoojo was elected Member of Parliament to represent Rwemiyaga County in Sembabule District. He also served as Chairman on the Finance, Economic Planning and Development Sessional Committee 1996, and a member on the Defence and Internal Affairs Sessional Committee.

He was a member of the Standing Committee on the National Economy for Five years.

Source: EC website