NRM-UK chapter split over Shs200m

  • Members of the NRM-UK & Ireland Chapter and their chairperson, Mr Allan Olara (2nd left - first row), following a meeting in August. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • At the centre of the accusations is Mr Allan Olara, the chairperson of the chapter that was recently revived after being in limbo for more than 17 years.

Money that the government earmarked for the National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) branch in the United Kingdom ahead of President Museveni’s aborted trip to the country in September has triggered a split among the party members, Saturday Monitor  can reveal.

An accountability report seen by this newspaper indicates that party authorities in Kampala have ordered those asking questions to keep quiet or face punitive sanctions.

At the centre of the accusations is Mr Allan Olara, the chairperson of the chapter that was recently revived after being in limbo for more than 17 years.

Mr Olara received the funds in two tranches. The first amount of Shs134.7 million (£30,000) was received after August 21 before the chapter elections and another Shs73.7 million ($20,000) on September 7 towards President Museveni’s visit to the United Kingdom.

An investigation report in the matter concludes that Mr Olara “abused his office as chairman of the UK & Ireland chapter and mismanaged with impunity funds belonging to the Chapter.”

It adds: “By failing to respond positively to the call for accountability and given how he tried to frustrate the Committee and influence the outcome of the report in his favour, [Mr Olara] manifested a high level of misconduct.”

Mr Olara has also been accused of “harassing and gagging members on the WhatsApp forum” and “incompetence in leading the chapter and dealing with its pertinent affairs.”

Allegations

It is alleged in the accountability report that the funds were received by the chapter chairperson both before and after the election, but were not disclosed to his committee members until queries were raised by members.

“[Mr Olara] impersonated the leadership of the Chapter in receiving funds, including using a letter of request from the Steering Committee. And in using this letter, [he] received the funds for and on behalf of the Chapter. However, when he returned, he used the funds to his benefit without declaring the funds to the membership or his Executive Committee. Moreover, when he received the second batch of the funds ($20,000.00) Allan was already the Chairperson of the EC and as such had no justifiable reason not to declare these funds to his committee,” a report investigating the matter concludes.

When Mr Olara was accosted by the executive committee and later the membership, he reasoned that he was accountable to them.

The report adds: “This impunity goes further to show that he was acting on personal ill motive with the intention to defraud the chapter. When the membership agreed to create an accountability committee to work with the executive committee, [Mr Olara] frustrated its efforts personally by failing to deliver all requested information and receipts and in connivance with some executive committee members appointed other EC members to the Accountability Committee with the deliberate intention to influence the outcome of the report. There is audio evidence to this effect.”

What happened?

With the cancellation of President Museveni’s visit due to the death of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, the “H.E Visit Prep Group”—an ad-hoc committee set up to prepare for the visit— halted and subsequently suspended all preparations.

Saturday Monitor understands that when a section of the NRM-UK & Ireland chapter members demanded accountability from Mr Olara, State House Comptroller Ms Jane Barekye met with 14 members of the chapter’s executive committee. Ms Barekye informed them that she had received and seen Mr Olara’s explanation for accountability of the funds he received.

“However, because she could not answer all the questions regarding the specifics of [Mr Olara’s] spending breakdown, she asked members of the executive committee (EC) to go and sit down with him for the breakdown and the specifics. She also guided that the refunds un-utilised by [Mr Olara] be deposited with the Chapter treasury,” the accountability report notes.

The chapter’s executive committee later met on September 17 on a Zoom call and discussed the accountability situation, particularly instances where Mr Olara handled the funds and how he had no invoices or receipts to prove the spending.

Apology

Mr Olara, according to the report, apologised to the meeting and the executive committee agreed to task a team amongst them to write an ‘Accountability Report’ to share with the chapter membership given their concerns.

“The chairman proposed himself, the deputy/vice chairman (Mr Moses Kasiibayo), the general secretary (Mr Caesar Kalema), and the spokesperson (Mr Kennedy Javuru) as the team that should write the report. This, however, later changed because the vice chairman charged that the team lacked impartiality and could not meaningfully proceed without the finance secretary and the chief whip.

He also proposed that independent members from the wider membership be co-opted in the accountability process to ensure impartiality and to balance the committee.

Mr Kasiibayo proposed Mr Humphrey Asiimwe, Ms Princess Ajara as well as Mr Anton Latinga Owiny Dollo and Mr Alex Latim. This was approved by a vote.

Upon the formation of the Accountability Committee,  it was agreed that since the chairman was the recipient of the funds in question, in the interest of impartiality and to avoid conflict of interest during the process of accountability, he should recuse himself from the committee.

The deputy chairperson and the general secretary were also requested to recuse themselves on grounds that the deputy chairperson was a whistle-blower to the membership while the general secretary was openly opposed to the accountability process.

Stepping aside

A new committee comprising Perez Nabaasa (chairperson), Kennedy Javuru, Patrick Mugisha, Alex Latim, Humphrey Asiimwe, Anton Latinga Owiny Dollo, and Princess Ajara took centre-stage. Shortly after the first accountability committee meeting, one of the members of the membership—Anton Latinga Owiny Dollo—resigned.

As per the report, Mr Olara was responsible for the theft and misappropriation of Chapter funds. Owing to this, the membership proposed and seconded a motion of “no confidence” in Mr Olara, ordering him to step down as the chapter’s head.

For reportedly violating Article 41(2) of the NRM party constitution and the Code of Conduct, Mr Olara received a vote of no confidence that was seconded by the majority. Mismanagement, incompetence, misconduct, or misuse of office are among the offences listed.

Kennedy Javuru, Patrick Mugisha, and Caesar Kalema were among the other members expelled. Two others, including Ms Betty Shereed Laika and Mr Ratib Buga Shakur, were cautioned. Mr Kasiibayo was named interim chairperson.

NRM Secretariat storm

In a December 1 letter to Mr Kasiibayo, seen by Saturday Monitor, the NRM’s director responsible for Foreign Affairs, Maj (Rtd) Awich Pollar, mounts a defence for Mr Olara. Mr Awich argues that the funds Mr Olara is accused of misappropriating did not originate from the secretariat and the initial purpose was nothing to do with branch business, but to mobilise for the visit of the party chairman.

“When Mr Olara received the funds, he was not yet elected NRM-UK & Ireland chairman and even when he received the second batch, it was to complete tasks already set for the mobilisation,” he explains.

“It is a common practice of NRM to work through trusted cadres to accomplish some tasks on behalf of the party,” he further writes, adding: “The chairman of NRM uses this method as a matter of routine, so, if Mr Olara was singled out for an assignment, it should not cause this prolonged rancor.”

No wrong deeds

Mr Awich pours cold water on the accountability report, insisting that the decision to set up the committee that came up with the report was made by “a clique” led by Mr Kasiibayo and contrary to the findings in the accountability report Mr Awich insists Mr Olara provided sufficient accountability to the financier and it was accepted. “This matter,” he says “should have been concluded at this meeting.”

“Your (Kasiibayo) actions are causing division, disquiet, intrigue and lack of cohesion in the Branch-which had just been revived in September 2022. Also, your actions appear to be a witch hunt of the current chairman. That is the reason you have no support within the wider membership and the elected Executive Committee of NRM-UK & Ireland. Your limited support is derived from a clique. Your actions are undermining cohesion in the NRM-UK Chapter,” Mr Awich writes.

Mr Awich begs Mr Kasiibayo to heed Ms Barekye’s earlier advice and refrain from raising any concerns about accountability.

“It is on record that you initially got guidance from a member of the NRM Chairman’s office–-who was in the (President’s Advance Party)—indeed the author of the funds in question. The advice she gave to the EC to drop the matter of expenditure queries should have been heeded in the first instance. This whole saga would not have arisen,” he said.

“As such the secretariat is giving you notice that you are in breach of that guidance and the principles that we hold dear. Your recent actions in summoning a meeting and purporting to pass a vote of no confidence in members of the elected NRM-UK & Ireland executive were illegal and as such, null and void. As far as the Secretariat is concerned, we recognise the elected Executive as the bonafide representatives of the Branch,”  he adds.

Two exit options

Mr Awich has given Mr Kasiibayo two options. “Return to the elected NRM-UK executive, apologise and work with your colleagues or resign the position as vice chairman NRM-UK & Ireland. Failure of which the secretariat will advise the elected executive to convene an extraordinary meeting and pass a vote of no confidence in you together with the few members who have been acting in concert with you to disorganise the branch.”

In a December 2 response to Mr Awich, Mr Kasiibayo insists that the request for accountability, the extraordinary meeting, and the vote of no confidence “were made by the majority of the chapter membership and not an effort of just an individual or a ‘clique’ of people as your letter alleges”.

He added: “We respectfully ask that the focus be shifted to the issues, facts, and available evidence in relation to UK chapter matters.”

Mr Kasiibayo is adamant that the claim that Mr Olara received the money as “a trusted cadre to carry out some tasks on behalf of the party” is untrue and that, in actuality, the money was given to finance the election that was then scheduled to take place and, later, to prepare for President Museveni’s visit to the UK.

“There is compelling evidence that once he received the funds in his possession, he misappropriated them and hence the chapter claim. Even those he alleged to have made payments to, in thousands of pounds, have denied receipt of these funds, and he also failed to furnish invoices or proof of his expenses. (Audio evidence is available to support this),” he explains.

Olara’s defence

In an interview, Mr Olara confirmed receiving the money—insisting that it was for activities outside the chapter. The embattled leader also added he had also been given full accountability, which was accepted by the representative of the financier (Ms Barekye).

Mr Olara further shared with Saturday Monitor a September 28 statement to chapter members. In the statement, he says he was contacted on August 9 and invited to Uganda, where he attended several meetings and briefings.

While in Uganda, he says, he was asked to coordinate activities to support a plan by President Museveni. Some of these activities included mobilisation of the Ugandan communities to meet with the president, arranging transport and accommodation for the advance team, planning and facilitating meetings with potential investors and arranging benchmarking visits by Ugandan delegates.

“This assignment had nothing to do with NRM-UK & Ireland chapter because, at the time, the current executives were not elected and fully constituted. I also did not inform or involve the Steering Committee in this assignment for two reasons,” he said.

He added: “Firstly, I had already resigned from the Steering Committee on 31st July 2022 to contest as chairman of the chapter; and secondly, the steering committee were entirely focused on organising the election. I also did not want to create an unnecessary distraction or be perceived as using these assignments to influence my candidature.”

Recovery

Following the cancellation of the event, he says Ms Barekye advised that the balance left and all the money that can be recovered through refunds be deposited into the chapter account for future use.

“I can confirm that £4,782 and $12,000 so far have been given to the Secretary of Finance, with a further £10,500 refund from Park Plaza Hotel, which was the cost towards (venue, breakfast, lunch, and refreshment) on the planned meeting has only been received today and will be transferred to the Secretary of Finance. Leaving the only outstanding amount of £250 to be received in refund,” Mr Olara revealed.

Ms Barekye did not respond to our request for comment.

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