May I have your attention please? Will the real whistle-blower please stand up?
What you need to know:
- The very documents the minister could not trust her Cabinet colleagues with she had instantly shared with a walk-in in pointed shoes! The Official Secrets Act be damned!
The following story is rather confusing and convoluted. You might want to sit down. Readers with a logic deficiency might want to take a nap first, or grab some paper and pen. Ready? Here we go. The main reason Gender and Labour Minister Betty Amongi gave for refusing to renew the contract of former NSSF Managing Director Richard Byarugaba was that she had received whistle-blower reports alleging widespread corruption and abuse of office. This made a lot of sense. The NSSF Board had recommended that Mr Byarugaba and his deputy, Patrick Ayota, get more time in office. But in light of new information available to her, and after giving it some careful thought, the minister was acting with caution and restraint.
So she re-appointed Mr Ayota, ostensibly on the basis that he, unlike his boss, was not adversely named by the whistle-blowers. Then she told the NSSF Board to write to the Inspector General of Government to ask for Mr Byarugaba to be investigated before, one assumes, he could either be reappointed, or forced to answer for his sins.
Asked by Cabinet colleagues about details of the allegations, Ms Amongi said they were too sensitive, she could only disclose them to the President. Not the IGG, not the Inspector General of Police, not even the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Police. Only the Head of State, the Investigator-in-Chief, could handle this.
Are we still together? Okay, right. Things began to get interesting when Parliament, prompted by an investigation in this newspaper, appointed a special committee to investigate the Fund. Suddenly a certain gentleman, one of those professional activists and politicians shuffling around town in ill-fitting suits and pointed shoes, turned up.
He was the whistle-blower, he announced to all and sundry. And his mission was to save the Fund from internal mismanagement. Side note: You know you are in deep doo-doo when someone like that turns up as your saviour, but we digress. Excellent, said the MPs, but could he confide in them how he knew the things that he claimed were going on in the Fund?
Our whistle-blower did not work in the Fund, CID, or any intelligence agency. So how did he know what he claimed to know? He could have cited confidentiality and all that, but our zealous whistle-blower revealed that he had got the documents from Ms Amongi.
Not just that; he had also received them officially, writing to the minister on December 14, 2022, in his capacity as an NSSF saver, and receiving a response the very next day, with a package of confidential documents included. The very documents the minister could not trust her Cabinet colleagues with she had instantly shared with a walk-in in pointed shoes! The Official Secrets Act be damned! Again, the story could have ended here, with only minimum damage. But later, when Parliament called for her resignation from trying to milk Shs6 billion out of the Fund, Ms Amongi would claim her innocence, saying she was the whistle-blower! In so doing, she inadvertently closed the circle. There was no whistle-blower. The judge was the jury, the prosecutor, the investigating officer, the arresting officer, and the complainant.
Ms Amongi is not the first public officer to hide behind the curtain of whistleblowing. Many well-known crooks in this town, claiming to be pious, have done the same, and more will undoubtably try. But we must be careful. We are all mammals, but some of us are cannibals who cut other people open like cantaloupes. Whistleblowing allows people to expose wrong-doing while keeping themselves from harm and retribution. Misused, however, it can become a cowardly weapon for slippery vermin of the serpentine variety, to settle scores and harm others.
The parliamentary investigation found many mistakes committed by the NSSF board, its management, and its political supervisors. An overhaul of all three power centres is perhaps the only logical way forward under the circumstances. But there was no fire in the theatre. It was all a power play, at the expense of the Fund.
It is possible that there is actual fraud in the Fund which a quick parliamentary inquiry was not able to uncover, and which a more detailed audit, once again, could. For that to happen the real whistle-blowers will have to stand up, otherwise we are going to have a problem.
Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and poor man’s freedom fighter.
[email protected]; @Kalinaki