Uganda: Museveni, Judge disagree over PS for the presidency

President Museveni and the chairperson of the Public Service Commission, the retired High Court Judge Ralph Ochan, have disagreed over how to fill the vacant post of secretary in the Office of the President.

Whereas the Public Service Commission had already conducted interviews to fill the position, the President proceeded to name his preferred candidate for the position and has followed up a letter by Justice Ochan explaining that the process of recruitment is ongoing with another letter affirming his earlier indicated choice.

The post in question is equivalent to that of a Permanent Secretary or accounting officer in a government ministry, but comes with a lot more powers and authority than is enjoyed by most other Permanent Secretaries.

The post fell vacant in August after the former occupant, Ms Deborah Katuramu, was elevated to take up the post of deputy Head of Public Service and deputy Secretary to Cabinet, which had fallen vacant in November 2016, following the death of Mr Vincente Opio Lukone.

Sources in the Presidency told Sunday Monitor that Mr Museveni and Mr Ochan are not in agreement over the manner in which the post should be filled.

Whereas Mr Ochan insists that the post should be filled through a competitive process where all interested parties are subjected to interviews in line with the Public Service Commission’s mandate to appoint

Permanent Secretaries as provided for under Article 174, Sub-section 2 of the Constitution, the President has already named Mr Yunus Kakande as his choice for the job.

Mr Kakande has worked with the office of the President since 1993 when he joined from the Ministry of Social Services and Welfare. He initially worked as a senior assistant secretary in charge of the Luweero Triangle Operations before being promoted to principal assistant secretary and charged with the responsibility of dealing with RDCs and presidential advisors, especially coordinating their logistics.

He was promoted to the post of undersecretary in December 2004, and has been acting as secretary to the Presidency since August when Ms Katuramu was moved.

Mr Museveni’s choice was made known by way of an October 10 letter that Ms Lucy Nakyobe, the State House Comptroller, sent to the Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr John Mitala.

“In line with Article 172(1) and 174(2) of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda, His Excellency the President has directed the appointment of Mr Yunus Kakande (Under Secretary) as secretary, Office of the President, with immediate effect,” the letter says.

The letter, which was copied to the chairman and secretary of the Public Service Commission, directed Mr Mitala to notify the Public Service Commission to “enable them prepare the instrument of appointment” for the President’s signature.

Sources in the Presidency revealed that upon receipt of his copy, Mr Ochan wrote to the President saying the Commission had already conducted interviews for the job and that the President’s decision to handpick a person for it would undermine the Commission and make it appear weak and irrelevant.

The interviews for competence to fill the post were conducted on October 2 and October 3. Mr Kakande had been one of the 28 candidates interviewed, but by the time Ms Nakyobe’s letter came up, the Commission had not yet released results from the interviews.

Mr Ochan declined to reveal what he had told the President.
“I received the letter and have since written back to the President offering some advice on the matter. When I get a response from him, I will share with you,” Mr Ochan told this newspaper on October 16. He did not pick up our follow up phone calls and text messages by press time.

Sunday Monitor has since established that Mr Museveni has written to Mr Ochan invoking his constitutional powers in the matter.

“In the exercise of the power vested in the President by Article 174(2) of the 1995 Constitution, I have appointed Mr Yunus Kakande as Secretary, Office of the President.

I am, therefore, forwarding his name and curriculum vitae for your action,” he wrote in the letter that was copied to, among others, the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Presidency and the Heads of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet.

We were unable to get a comment from any official from the Presidency on the matter.
The Minister for the Presidency, Ms Esther Mbayo, neither picked our repeated calls nor responded to text messages, while senior presidential press secretary Don Wanyama said he was not privy to the communications and would first have to talk to Ms Nakyobe.

The contention

Whereas Public Service Commission chairperson Ralph Ochan insists that the post should be filled through a competitive process where all interested parties are subjected to interviews, the President has already named Mr Yunus Kakande as his choice for the job.

Accounting officer. Besides working as the accounting officer and vote controller for the Presidency, the secretary to the Presidency is also charged with overseeing the appointment and deployment of Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and presidential advisors and assistants, and paying their emoluments and allowances.

Appointments. The secretary in the Office of the President also oversees the appointment, deployment and promotion of government cadres and heads of government agencies.

By Daily Monitor

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