ID card money sparks storm in Immigration

KAMPALA.

The integrity of the probe into allegations of corruption, mismanagement and abuse of office in the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control has been called into question with claims of witch-hunt being raised.

The Sunday Monitor understands that the struggle to control the more than Shs280b to be spent on issuing national identity cards to all citizens – for the first time -partly sparked the current fights at the Internal Affairs ministry, leading to the probe which was constituted early this month.

Internal Affairs Minister Aronda Nyakairima appointed a commission of inquiry to look into several irregularities and corruption a host of other allegations including poor service delivery and lack of a strategic plan.

However, our investigation reveals that the problems in the ministry [directorate of immigration] are wider than portrayed.There is a fight over control of the money for the ID project, the National Security Information Systems (NSIS) project, which is manned by the Director for Immigration and Citizenship Control, Mr Godfrey Sasagah Wanzira.

But on November 29 last year, the Internal Affairs ministry permanent secretary, Mr Steven Kagoda, wrote to Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, seeking to transfer the accountability role to himself.

He said a Project Account No.0032-00088-000003 was opened with Bank of Uganda. The signatories are Mr Sasagah, as accounting officer, David Tumwesigye, the principal accountant as alternate and Ms Ntulume Harriet Kiwanuka, Senior Accountant.

“This arrangement has been working well,” the letter reads, “However, the bringing on board of other stakeholder institutionsagencies (Ministries of Local Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Information and National Guidance, Information and Communication Technology, Electoral Commission, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control, Uganda Police Force, Uganda Prisons Service, UPDF, ISO, ESO, URSB [Uganda Registrations Services Bureau], UBOS [Uganda Bureau of Statistics]) brought to light a need to review the arrangement.”

Mr Kagoda told Treasury officials: “There is now a feeling that the Permanent SecretaryMinistry of Internal Affairs (Vote 009) should now be the Accounting Officer for these NSIS funds. Currently, the DirectorCitizenship and Immigration Control (Vote 120) is the Accounting Officer for the NSIS funds.”

But the national treasury managers rejected Mr Kagoda’s demand to control the project money and indicated his move was suspicious. “….bringing on board other stakeholder institutionsagencies does not warrant changing the Accountability Centre for NSIS funds…,” reads a letter by Mr Patrick Ocailap, the deputy secretary to the Treasury.Mr Ocailap also told Mr Kagoda that the budget for the project was approved by Parliament to be controlled by Mr Sasagah, a move that was reportedly recommended by Mr Kagoda in 201011. To shift the control of money from Mr Sasagah to Mr Kagoda required parliamentary endorsement, Mr Ocailap said.

“I wish therefore to aise that as the Sector Ministry, you should put in place clear and proper oversight modalities to ensure the different activities for the project are executed by different institutions funded under Vote 120 and the implementing institutions will account for the funds to the Accounting Officer of Vote 120,” reads Mr Ocailap’s letter.Mr Muhakanizi said if they need to change control, “we are saying they can do it in the next financial year or ask Parliament.”

Sasagah,Kagoda conflictSunday Monitor understands that there has been a long running feud between Mr Sasagah and Mr Kagoda over the control of the project with claims that the permanent secretary was not impressed by his lack of powers to spend the money.

The fight was so ugly that when Mr Sasagah was appointed director of Citizenship and Immigration Control, the office was not handed over to him officially. Mr Sasagah and other senior officials under him have been excluded from the Finance and Administration responsibilities in the ministry in spite of being senior in the ministry’s top team.

Sources both in the Finance and Internal Affairs ministries told this newspaper that although the current commission of inquiry into alleged corruption in the immigration directorate appears to capture wider concerns its unexpressed intention was to find means to shift control of the project from Mr Sasagah to Mr Kagoda.

This newspaper tried to fix an appointment with Mr Kagoda but failed. Attempts to reach him by telephone also failed as calls to his known phones were unanswered.

Gen Aronda is accused of having allied with Mr Kagoda to find an excuse to fault Mr Sasagah hence interdict him. Before instituting the probe, Gen Aronda reportedly wrote several warnings to Mr Sasagah giving him ultimatums of a few months to stamp out corruption in the directorate.The suspicion is informed by the fact that in 2012, the Director of Crime Intelligence and Investigation Directorate [CIID], Ms Grace Akullo, assigned seven senior detectives to investigate similar allegations now the commission is looking into.

Although the police team concluded their investigations, a report has not been made public nor were the findings brought to the attention of the implicated officials in the Immigration Department. This has bolstered speculation in the ministry that because the police investigation did not pin Mr Sasagah, the report was shelved.

But Ms Akullo said the probe she constituted only looked at specific cases, which helped her prosecute culprits. “We have also appeared before the commission of inquiry to state what we did,” she said, adding: “May be the commission is looking into wider issues.”

The composition of the new probe committee by Gen Aronda has also raised eyebrows. Two members of the team: Guma Komwiswa, a member of External Security Organisation and Lt Col Mwesigwa, an aide to Gen Aronda, reportedly have interest in Mr Sasagah’s job. Mr Komwiswa previously competed for the job through Public Service interviews but Mr Sasagah was rated better while Col Mwesigwa is attached to the NSIS project and sits at Gen Aronda’s other office in Kololo.

However, Gen Aronda denied witch-hunting particular individuals at the immigration department but said he needed to change it for incompetence.He said he has set himself targets and needs a team to achieve them. He said he had faced some challenges in bringing in changes at the immigration.

“I tabled reforms in Cabinet but I lost. It’s only the Prime Minister [Amama Mbabazi] who helped me push through the issue of electronic travel documents,” Aronda said.

He said when he asked Cabinet for an increase in personnel to man borders, he was told to use computers. “Computers cannot run our borders,” he said, citing countries like Malaysia and Ghana which reportedly have populations of 27 and 24 million respectively but also employ 11,000 and 6,000 immigration officers respectively.

“In Uganda we have 36 million people but have only 300 immigration officers,” he said. Asked about management style in the ministry, Gen Aronda said: “I am under pressure to deliver therefore any obstacle should be crushed.”

Asked whether Mr Komiswa’s sitting in the commission of inquiry yet he vied for Sasagah’s same job in 2007 would not amount to conflict of interest, Aronda said: “I did not know that background. I was looking for someone who can help us benchmark with European immigration policies.” Mr Komiswa served in the UK as an ESO agent and has been part of the parallel intelligence unit deployed by Gen Aronda in the Immigration Directorate.

Gen Aronda has publically pushed for the leadership and composition of the Directorate to be manned by security agencies. However, questions are being asked why he is imposing it on the ministry instead of initiating a formal review through the Public Service ministry.

SOURCE: DAILY MONITOR

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