If it looks, swims, and quacks like  a duck, then it probably is a duck

The Finance minister is running for re-election as MP. He is an old man who takes himself seriously. And would like others, especially younger people, to take him seriously as well. Yet there is an impudent young man determined to challenge him for the MP job.

The minister somehow engages in a conversation with the President about the pesky young man. 

Within days, the young man is handed a plum job in a government agency that falls under the ministry of Finance. He withdraws his candidacy. The minister is promptly declared to be running unopposed in the constituency.

Somehow, we should look at this as just another normal way of conducting public affairs. No conflict of interest. No abuse of office. No moral qualms. We should get over it.

The minister, Mr Matia Kasaija, told Daily Monitor that the scheme to take Mr Paul Kyalimpa out of the running for MP of Buyanja in Kibaale District was President Museveni’s making. “I see no conflict of interest,” he told the paper. “I did not solicit the job for Kyalimpa and I did not appoint him. I was just a courier.”

It is good to be the accidental courier of information that benefits you immediately and immensely. Beggars belief.  Did the President take the “initiative to place Kyalimpa somewhere in government service” as Mr Kasaija would have us believe? This is for journalists to probe and establish the facts.

Let us, however, examine the President’s language in his letter dated November 24, to Mr Kasaija. “I refer to my conversation with you in Gulu last Wednesday regarding the above mentioned person. 
“This is to authorise you to go ahead with the recruitment process and have the candidate appointed, if found suitable.”

That is an instructive word. When the President makes a decision, he normally directs his ministers to follow through. I, therefore, direct you…

To authorise is to approve, permit, allow, sanction, empower, consent. Implied here, and in the context, is that someone (probably the minister) went to the President with a proposal, a suggestion, an idea and sought his permission to proceed. 

The President gave his nod. This is to authorise you to go ahead… This suggests the process to recruit one man and one man only — Mr Kyalimpa — was underway, and the President is saying it is okay for that process to continue.

Let us for a moment take the minister’s word that this was all the President’s making. That amid his campaign and the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Museveni had all the time to think about filling the all-important position of deputy director general of Uganda Investment Authority, a job not even provided for in the law.

How does minister Kasaija think all this reflects on him? His opponent, whom he claims he would have soundly defeated in the general election on January 14, 2021, the way he did in the NRM primaries, is removed from the campaign. 

And that removal involves his active participation. The removed opponent gets a job in a government agency under the minister’s supervision. The minister benefits from the removal.

 For the sake of optics, doesn’t the minister think it would have been prudent to defeat Mr Kyalimpa, who was running as an Independent candidate, and then give him the UIA job well after the elections? 

Lest we forget, there is this neat observation in the Daily Monitor report: “The drafting of Mr Kyalimpa into the top UIA job lasted only six working days from the date of the President’s letter, and this efficiency is itself a record that contrasts with the previous regular public service recruitment timelines.” The government is getting truly efficient, even if selectively so. How about that for a change?

Mr Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala. [email protected]