The board of the public procurement entity has temporarily blocked Mr Anania Mbabazi from taking office as the entity’s chief executive, pending investigations into allegations of unethical conduct and conflict of interest against him.
Prof Simeon Wanyama, the chairman of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) board, said they took a decision “to first conduct more due diligence” on Mr Mbabazi after Finance minister Matia Kasaija, the political supervisor of the authority, raised a red flag.
Following a protracted search, Prof Wanyama’s board picked Mr Mbabazi to replace Ms Cornelia Ssabiti, the outgoing PPDA executive director.
He wrote back on February 3 accepting the offer upon which the board forwarded his name to minister Kasaija for formal appointment.
Instead, Mr Mbabazi told this newspaper on Sunday that he was surprised to receive a telephone call from the chairman of the board which had selected him through a due process, telling him to stay put.
“I applied for the job, went through every stage, beat all others with no one questioning my reputation or credentials and now here we are!” said Mr Mbabazi, the former director of Civil Aviation Authority.
Last Wednesday, Mr Kasaija wrote to Prof Wanyama stonewalling the PPDA executive director-designate from assuming office on grounds “that there are very serious issues of real, potential and substantial conflict of interest and misconduct” about him.
Citing a Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) inquiry that found Mr Mbabazi culpable of conflict of interest and alleged misconduct while he was manager of the rehabilitation of the Kiryandongo-Karuma-Kamdini road, the minister wrote on February 15: “I,
therefore, urge you to reconsider rescinding the appointment, since no formal contract has been executed and he has not reported for duty.”
It was “premature” to suggest a “binding employment relationship” between PPDA and Mr Mbabazi, the minister wrote, and “apart from his acceptance, there is no consideration from him yet, before he actually starts to work.”
Mr Mbabazi was one of the three top contenders out of 13 applicants for the PPDA job. The board then hired a consultant, Dama Consultants, to do vetting and award each candidate up to 40 per cent and the board gave the additional 60 per cent based on its own interviews and evaluation.
Dama Consultants rated Mr Aloysius Byaruhanga, PPDA’s deputy director procurement audit and investigations; best followed by the entity’s corporate affairs director, Mr Bradford Ochieng and ranked Mr Mbabazi last among the trio.
However, the board later scored Mr Mbabazi as the best; Mr Byaruhanga second and Mr Ochieng third.
Based on the final evaluations, Mr Mbabazi, who now says he is being fought by the “losers”, considered until last week that the Shs15 million-per-month job was his to take.
After minister Kasaija applied political brakes on the recruitment, Mr Wanyama on February 14 wrote to Dr Mbabazi informing him “not to report for duty until further notice”.
A source familiar with the process intimated to Daily Monitor that some trusted and influential cadres in government complained to Mr Kasaija about “unethical conduct” in recruitment of the PPDA boss.
“The other two contenders were from within PPDA and were seen as the most ideal successors for Ms Ssabiti to avoid the usual ups and downs that come with new bosses,” the source said, citing internal disgruntlement.
Other sources said there were unfavourable intelligence briefings to State House about Mr Mbabazi.
The claims of his alleged unethical conduct date back to 2014 when he was a local director for ILISO Consulting Pty, a South African-based project management firm, which had been contracted by the Unra to rehabilitate the 88-kilometre Kiryandongo-Karuma-Kamdini road funded by government. He was the project manager and resident engineer between April and December 2014.
Mr Mbabazi was accused of questionable spending of staff money and summarily dismissing those that demanded pay. He was implicated in irregular use of Shs171m meant for employees’ accommodation, which ILISO on July, 28, 2015 agreed to refund after failing to substantiate how it was used following a forensic audit.
In an interview on Sunday, Mr Mbabazi said he did wrong because it was a standard practice that the road contractor pays for housing for staff on the project. “Whoever has a complaint against me, he said, “should submit it in writing to the board; I am ready to be invited to explain and defend myself on each in detail.”
Asked if the controversy surrounding Mr Mbabazi’s appointment means the recruitment process will be started afresh, Mr Wanyama said “we have not yet made decision on that”.
He added: “Before we can take decision I think it is prudently better that we first put the current process to the end by verifying the claims made.”