I already mentioned in my letter [to the President]. And I have no apology for it. And, by the way, it is a big cartel. They are seasoned Government officials, the mafias, the ninjas but I don’t fear them because I know I am doing the right thing - Anite
KAMPALA - The fight between the State Minister of Finance for Investment and Privatization, Evelyn Anite, and Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana, over Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) has taken new twist following, President Yoweri Museveni's letter to Justice minister Kahinda Otafiire. While both are claiming victory, there is more than meets the eye. Umaru Kashaka spoke to both in separate interviews:
I'll stop the mafia - Anite
The President has now declined your call to dismiss Twebaze Bemanya! Yet you were pressing for it using his name! Isn't this a big blow to your reputation?
No! The most important thing we needed to rescue is what the President has salvaged. And that is, to stop liquidation. My call for Bemanya's sacking is premised on his aim to sell the company. So the President's directive is very good because it just confirms that, as shareholders, we actually didn't cede our powers to him. For me, ultimately, the President has addressed my biggest concern that they must not liquidate UTL.
Is this worth risking your political career, taking on veteran politicians?
Well, I am not taking on anyone. I am just asking questions because my office mandates me to do the right thing. I serve a delegated responsibility from my appointing authority, the President. All I did was to state the facts and I am known for that; I don't mince words. I am not worried about anybody because the people who voted me are in Koboko. And the person who appointed me is the President. You can't tell me that they are powerful people and so, I should keep quiet. My people have actually called me pleading that I keep quiet because these people can finish me. I said: It's okay! Let me die with my mouth open. I don't know how to keep quiet. When it is wrong, it is wrong.
Okay, give us the facts; who is in the cartel you said is keen to sell UTL to themselves?
I already mentioned in my letter [to the President]. And I have no apology for it. And, by the way, it is a big cartel. They are seasoned Government officials, the mafias, the ninjas but I don't fear them because I know I am doing the right thing. But most importantly, on behalf of the president. He will put me to task if UTL goes under. It's like I am a mother on delivery bed. My husband and medical workers are expecting the baby to come out alive. I do my best not to suffocate baby UTL. I don't want history to say Anite killed UTL. When I went to court in April 2017, it was to save Baby UTL from being strangled by the mafia. Thanks to the judge who said no, let us save the baby. And UTL was saved. So I am seeing the baby grow. You want me to keep quiet when the administrator (Bemanya) announces that he will kill this baby, cut it in pieces and sell it in parts or as a whole? As the mother who saved this baby, I can't allow! How will I explain to the president that someone came and strangled the baby left in my care? He will ask me, "Did you resist?"
But the Attorney Generals says you lied; the President didn't issue any directive.
Fine. At least they now have his directive to bring the matter to Cabinet. I am watching them. They said matters of UTL can only be known through court, I want to see how they inform Cabinet, which is not the court. I want to know how they are going to get information about UTL without going to court. I am waiting to ask them: aren't you breaking the law revealing this without court permission? I am watching.
But the Attorney Generals' advice is final. They are mandated to advise Government
Fine. They are my legal advisers and I can't challenge them. I am a layperson; they are lawyers. That is why I escalated the matter to the President.
They say you have no ground to say Bemanya has failed; you are just tarnishing his name
Alright; for instance, the old UTL owed Uganda Communications Employees Contributory Pension Scheme (UCEPS) sh14b. They have been asking to meet Bemanya to settle it and he arrogantly refused. He even failed to remit UTL staff contributions worth sh1.5b to the scheme. Isn't this is a serious breach of his obligations? He continuously lays off staff who are members of the scheme and they demand their money from the scheme because their money was deducted from their earnings. Isn't this a criminal act? The Administration Deed we signed says Bemanya should not accrue any debt. So, what is this sh1.5b? Then, he claims that shareholders met and extended his term of office but I don't remember any shareholder meeting! They say the law doesn't allow us to audit him; where is it written in this law? I have asked but I haven't gotten an answer. I am only told that the time is not prudent, so when will it be prudent?
Rukutana says Bemanya has been filing reports…
But those are not audited books of accounts! The reports are different. We did an audit before UTL went into administration, now I am asking for another and they are telling me I have no locus. How am I supposed to check the health of the company?
You said Bemanya is a crook; can you prove this?
No, those are not my words. They were quotations from a meeting chaired by the Minister of Finance (Matia Kasaija) at the ministry. The permanent secretary, Keith Muhakanizi, expressed his view for clarity that Bemanya is a crooked lawyer and well entrenched. It was minuted. I only used it to confirm my suspicion because in the beginning, they wanted to liquidate UTL and we disagreed for three days! Private lawyers were saying don't liquidate; government technical officers said let's liquidate. So really can't I just say this is a confirmation? It is quite amazing what I see at my tender age. When I see people who are older than me do what they do, I ask: where are we going as a country?
Anite is a liar - Rukutana
Is it a victory for you now that the President is not sacking Bemanya after all?
I am so happy. How can a man be doing his work dutifully and faithfully and, because of some personal quarrel, you want to disadvantage and dismiss him? No, no, no. That is not how things are done. That girl told the president many lies! Now if it is true that the President had directed her to remove Bemanya, why didn't he (President) say so in yesterday's (Thursday's) directive? All the president said is that the Cabinet should always be informed about UTL and that we should look for a strategic investor. So where is that directive Anite is talking about?
The minister insists that she has locus to remove the UTL administrator
Only if there are grounds! But I don't see any whatsoever. Let her prove the allegations.
She referred you to section 172 of the Insolvency Act 2011 and Insolvency Regulations sections 161 (1).
What do those sections say? You see, the Attorney General is not a robot! You can't say you go to court and apply for this and I run without reason. There must be grounds and it is my duty to advise whoever is not supported by the law. That is what I did.
But she says your advice contradicts the directive she got from the President
Which President? Anite is lying. I don't know about that directive. If the President wanted to direct, why didn't he direct me or the Attorney General? Normally presidential directives are in writing; where is it? Has she showed it to you? And if so why isn't he (Bemanya) removed? I was not privy to the alleged directive but even if it was there, I would still advise the President that it is undoable. The President give directives but you must comply with them within the context of the law.
You seem to be supporting Bemanya, who was referred to as a crooked lawyer
Bemanya is an officer in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. He heads the Uganda Registration Services Bureau which is under my Ministry. We in the Ministry of Justice; the Minister of Justice (Kahinda Otafiire), the Attorney General (William Byaruhanga), myself, the Solicitor General, …, all of us; we don't know any wrong Bemanya has committed. If she has evidence that he is a crook, let her bring it and he will be dealt with under the law. For us, Bemanya is actually one of the most upright and hardworking lawyers.
But why did Bemanya block the UTL audit?
It is the Auditor General (Muwanga) himself who said he can't audit UTL because it is under administration! It is only the court that can make orders about it.
Are you part of the cartel keen to have UTL liquidated so that you can buy it?
To the best of my knowledge, if there is any cartel to buy UTL, she is its head. I don't know any cartel myself. Since she said she knows about it, then she must be heading it.
Is it not irregular for Bemanya to refuse to give her progress reports on UTL for the last 8 years? How does he expect her to brief the president on the UTL progress?
Under the Administrators Deed, Bemanya is supposed to file periodic accounts reports which he has done. Why can't she read those reports?
Anite has grounds to prove she has lost confidence in Bemanya
Now if she has lost confidence in him as Anite, that is her problem. She is not the government. There is Anite the person, there is Anite the Minister but there is also the government that has its own mechanisms. Suppose it is a personal fight, which I presume it is, you want the government to be held hostage because there is a personal quarrel between Anite and Bemanya?
But don't you know about the complaint from Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), the regulator, that UTL has not co-operated with the Intelligence Network Monitoring System?
I know all those are issues that Bemanya has been handling. UCC started complaining so many years before the coming of Bemanya as an administrator. So how can that be Bemanya's problem?