The management at Uganda Railways Corporation and the Board of Directors are yet to receive communication about their dismissal more than 10-days after the president’s directive to the Ministry of Works and Transport.
In the letter dated October 3, 2022, President Yoweri Museveni directed the minister to sack the Managing Director and the entire Board of Directors, accusing them of incompetence. According to State Minister for Transport Fred Byamukama this was part of the executive’s effort against corruption.
Byamukama said that the president also ordered the immediate arrest of all those who were involved in the procurement of second-hand locomotives that were said to be incompatible with the rail in Uganda, as well as those who were involved in the illegal sale of URC land. The refurbished locomotives were bought at 48 billion Shillings from a South African manufacturer, Grindrond Rail in August, last year, as part of the efforts to revamp the century-old metre gauge railway.
But close to two weeks after the presidential directive, URC management says they are yet to get any communication about the letter. “As far as URC management is concerned, there is no directive nor letter, because we are also only hearing it from the media,” an official at the corporation said on condition of anonymity.
The official said everything was going on as usual and that the Managing Director Stanley Sendegeya has been at the National Leadership Institute in Kyakwanzi with other government officials ‘on official duties.’ They added that the same issues had been raised when the URC team appeared before Parliaments Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises, COSASE, but dismissed some of them as not accurate.
On the cost of the locomotives, the parliamentary committee reported that URC had acquired locomotives which were eight years old at 48 billion Shillings, yet a committee selected to advise on the purchase had recommended 6-year-old locomotives at 36 billion Shillings. However, the cost increased when it was found that the locomotives were not compatible with the railway network in Uganda, meaning that they had to undergo adjustments to be aligned with the rails.
During the same commitee meeting, the appointments of both Sendegeya and Hannington Karuhanga, the board chairperson raised controversies and reportedly divided the authorities responsible and now, President Museveni is also convinced that Sendegeya’s qualifications do not measure up.
The previous board’s term that expired in February was given three more months which elapsed in May, and since then, the line ministers took over the duties of the Board until September 9, 2022. At its inauguration, the Minister, General Edward Katumba Wamala said it was not easy assembling the board because they wanted one which was going to meet the demands of the industry which is becoming more important than before.
“The president has decided that the revamping of the railway be given all the support that it needs. And you have even seen and heard him stating how important it is to revive the network,’ said General Wamala.
However, some media reports show that there was a lot of haggling between State House and State Minister Byamukama on one side and Minister Wamala on the other, with the former pushing for former minister Joy Kabatsi while the latter wanted the Karuhanga returned.
The Observer reported that State House and Gen Salim Saleh tried to convince Gen Wamala that Kabatsi was the best bet because she was ‘results-oriented, incorruptible and has the relevant experience, having supervised the same entity before as state minister. However, according to the paper, Gen Wamala feared that she would disrupt the operations at the parastatal organization, including overhauling management.
MP Joel Ssenyonyi who presided over the parliamentary probe said they recommended the sacking and prosecution of the board and the managers involved in the purchase of the locomotives and other scandals like the sale of the Corporation’s assets irregularly.
However, he said, the minister was taking too long to act, adding that by now the concerned officials should be in jail. It is not clear whether Karuhanga, given the history of his appointment, saw the sacking of the board coming.
On the new Board, only Karuhanga, as Chairman and Sendegeya and Secretary to the Board and Managing Director were part of the former board which is accused of mismanaging the purchases and the sale of assets. The others are Florence Hashaka Kabahweza, Grace Charlotte Karugaba Kabunga, Eng. Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko, Al-Hajji Abdallatiff Dhakaba Wangubo, Richard Nkuuna and Michael Oballim who came in last month.
The former board, on top of Karuhanga and Sendegeya, had Patrick Kabunakukyi, Moses Mwase, Kin Twesigye, Hajjat Hafiswa Sebyala, David Kapsunduy, Jowali Kyeyago, and Ben Toddo. While the URC Board and the management are yet to receive communication from the ministry, they believe it is the end of the newly inaugurated board and the MD.
“Usually when the president makes a directive, it is implemented. And specifically, the general (Katumba-Wamala) usually executes the president’s directives,” the URC official said but added that this will not affect the progress of the agency because the government is increasingly committing more resources.