By Esther Kiiza Karungi
I refer to the appearance of Molly Kamukama, Principal private secretary to the President, before the land probe commission of Justice Catherine Bamugemereire.
Her composure and intellectual prowess while in the hot seat must have had a composite effect on the public and other potential witnesses who may be required to appear.
There is a great difference between a witness as a resource person helping the commission to find vital information and a witness as an accused and accessory to a wrong doing.
When someone’s conscience is clear, there is no reason why they cannot look the commissioners in the eyes and confidently look into the cameras.
Such a relaxed and calm environment creates a comfortable but serious mood where every word and its deepest meaning are registered.
It also helps to keep focus on what is being said rather than the distraction of heated exchanges and dramatic accusations.
Without talking down past achievements of the commission, which has since been granted an 18 months extension by President Yoweri Museveni, whistleblowers and witnesses prefer to co-operate in a friendly environment where they feel things may not backfire unfairly and that their contribution is likely to be put to proper use.
The commission has had some bad publicity engineered by some of the people responsible for the mess now being investigated but the appearance of people like Kamukama reaffirms that the commission has the goodwill and confidence from the highest office in the land and that its recommendations will be highly valued.
No tax payer’s money will go to waste.
Aside from the ambience, an important aspect of the tone and purpose of communications from the President’s office came up.
In Kamukama’s explanation, not all messages from the Presidents office are directives.
Directives are explicit in that the intention is made clear as to what the big man wants done in a particular. Some messages are forwarded for further management, but not as final directives on a matter.
Under normal circumstances, the distinction would be clear but that had not been the case, from experience. Recall the case of Hassan Basajjabalaba when the President forwarded his matter of compensation to respective officials, but they ended up imposing their own directives, thereby causing accountability problems.
At times, officials act in questionable ways with an excuse that State House pressured them to act so.
Some are genuinely green while others use the excuse of uncertainty to do wrong instead of consulting where they have not understood a message. Learning doesn’t end. Officials should undertake courses (refresher or progressive) in communication to avoid such problems.
It is possible that many problems in administration are a result of messages lost in translation. But for an official in high office, that can not be a plus on their curriculum vitae and neither can it be taken for granted.
Failure to interpret official documentation by a minister is a huge shame to that minister and the ministry at large.
Errors are costly. In the military, an error in command can cost life.
The lands docket should engage the legal department effectively to prevent making administrative decisions that are legally actionable or loaded with impropriety.
In the case of the land fund, when uninformed decisions are made in favour of fake claimants, bonafide ones miss out.
Officials need Kyankwanzi “drilling” to reawaken their zeal and attention for detail.
An error-prone bureaucracy is susceptible to acute to inefficiency being that it is impossible to accurately detect which areas need attention in terms of human and logistical resources.
I can imagine how daunting a task it is likely to be for the Lands docket to defect its ministerial policy statements and to vouch for necessary allocations in the new financial year.
If it is true that the minister Betty Amongi, who faced the commission earlier, misunderstood some communications that came to her desk any one time, the difficult time she had should be a reminder that she need not act alone but to work with the entire structure she heads. Acting that way prevents singular responsibility for any liability that may arise.
The rest of the Ugandan public should take the work of the commission as a commitment to resolving land-related once and for all.
A good citizen must acquaint him or herself with land laws and how the various tenures relate. One should also know which office to report on a particular issue and to know at what stage to appeal to the President.
Even though he has not failed to act on any duties or complaints coming to his knowledge, the concept known as presidentialism is practically unrealistic and detrimental to institutional development.
The writer is a political analyst