UEPB staff claimed that the staffing crisis at the organisation was caused by the delayed investigation by the IGG
The delayed release of the Uganda Export Promotions Board (UEPB) probe report was because the Inspector General of Government (IGG) had to do a thorough job, the inspectorate's spokesperson has said.
IGG spokesperson, Ali Munira, said besides the complaints of unfair termination of contracts from employees; the inspectorate looked at many other issues in order to ensure that problems do not recur at UEPB.
"Recruitment and sacking of staff was part of the investigations. But at the time we got the complaint, there were other issues we had to look at as the ombudsman; that is why it took us a little longer. We looked at other issues to improve service delivery so that other challenges don't crop up after our investigations. We are putting in a lot of effort to complete the investigations," she explained.
Munira was responding to claims by UEPB staff that the staffing crisis at the organisation was caused by the delayed investigation by the IGG. She asked the staff to bear with them and promised that the report would be out soon.
During a two-day business journalists' training and export information dissemination seminar in Najjera, a Kampala suburb, UEPB staff said they were overwhelmed by the workload and blamed the staffing crisis on the delayed IGG probe.
At the same function, UEPB executive director, Elly Twineyo Kamugisha, said they have funds to recruit, but they cannot do so until the IGG clears them. But a recent IGG report revealed that they were in the process of compiling their findings.
But a section of the sacked UEPB staff blamed Kamugisha for the staffing crisis, saying the IGG stopped him from carrying out the restructuring in which their contracts were terminated, but he (Kamugisha) ignored the directive and sacked more than half of the entire staff.
In a November 24, 2015 letter, the IGG directed; "This is therefore to inform you that in accordance with Article 230(2) of the constitution and section 14(6) of the Inspectorate of Government Act, you are hereby ordered to halt all activities related to implementation of restructuring at UEPB including termination and recruitment of staff at UEPB until the completion of the investigation in this matter or until you receive further instructions to the contrary from this office."
However, Kamugisha ignored the IGG's directive, saying UEPB had reviewed the staff structure and that affected staff were asked to re-apply for any position they felt they qualify to hold.
As a result, Kamugisha was in December 2015 arrested and detained at the Central Police Station in Kampala for two days for disobeying orders of the IGG against sacking workers. Kamugisha was arrested after he locked out staff members who had petitioned the IGG over unfair termination.
Out of the 24 staff members who were at UEPB, 17 staff whose contracts expired on November 30, 2015, were informed that they would not be renewed. This left only seven staff with contracts at UEPB.
Sources revealed that the seven UEPB staff that were not issued with the termination letters had just been recruited between April and July 2015.
The sacking of the 17 staff was contained in letters that Kamugisha issued to each of the staff members informing them that their contracts would not be renewed upon expiry.
Kamugisha's communication titled ‘non-renewal of the contract' was dated September 29, 2015. The staff, some of whom had worked for UEPB for over 15 years, were subsequently given a two-month notice as required by Staff Terms and Conditions of Service. But there was no reason given for termination of the contracts.
One of the affected staff who preferred anonymity then commented; "we have been unfairly treated. Some of us have been very hard working since we joined in the early 90s and there is no reason why our contracts have not been renewed yet we have not yet clocked retirement age." Another staff member wondered; "We have done nothing wrong, why terminate our contracts?"
Kamugisha revealed that they carried out the restructure at UEPB following a recommendation by the IGG. He said some workers were redundant while others were not competent enough.
"We had some people with a background in history working as accountants. Someone had a background in HIV/AIDS counselling but they were promoting markets. I was recruited to rebrand UEPB and we must have experts," he stated.
Kamugisha said there was no need for a driver to take an office messenger to drop a letter using the UEPB vehicle yet one person could do that. "Myself I have no driver yet I am supposed to have one. But each of the directors had drivers! May be one could need a driver while going upcountry."
Kamugisha said UEPB previously had 16 staff, but the number increased to 22 and that they aimed at recruiting 18 more from outside the board to make it 40 staff. He promised to also open five regional offices countrywide which would help in certifying exports.