By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: A bitter row is raging on between State Minister for Privatisation and Investment Evelyn Anite and the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, over the auditing of ailing Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL).
It should be noted that president Yoweri Museveni recently wrote to Anite, instructing her to contract a company to conduct an audit UTL.
Earlier on, Anite’s efforts to keep track of operations at UTL and attempts to fire Twebaze Bemanya, the Administrator who was appointed by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, had been thwarted by the deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana. However, Anite’s efforts to have UTL audited have again been frustrated by Muhakanizi, who on Friday August 2nd, 2019 wrote a letter to Bemanya , asking him to halt the audit process as was directed by Anite because there is an ongoing Court process.
Muhakanizi’s letter reads in part thus;
“Reference is made to a letter from the Internal Auditor General dated 31st July 2019. Further reference is made to letters dated 31st July 2019 and 1st August 2019 from Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) a creditor of UTL, indicating inter alia, that they have filed Miscellaneous Cause No. 226 of 2019 in the High Court for an order that the Auditor General be appointed to audit your activities in the Administration of UTL.”
Muhakazini notes that since the question of audit is now before Court, he has been advised by lawyers that the proposed audit by the Internal Auditor General would be subjudice.
He adds; “I have also discussed this matter with Hon. Maria Kasaija, Minister of Finance and he has directed that we should allow the court process take its course and subsequently conduct the audit following this due process.”
He instructs that the Internal Auditor General should halt the audit exercise to ensure compliance with the Laws of Uganda.
The new instruction contradicts an earlier directive given by Anite to the Internal Auditor General last month for an audit to be conducted on activities of the Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL).
“Arising from H.E the President’s letter ref: PO/10 dated 16th July, 2019 addressed to me, to institute an audit of UTL activities, I’m accordingly directing you to conduct an internal audit of UTL activities and evaluate the state of affairs within a period of one month,” read Anite’s letter dated 24th July 2019.
She further cautioned that the internal audit on UTL must be comprehensive to confirm or clear the allegations before President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
However, disagreement between the two government officials has created a standoff, with Anite accusing Muhakanizi of connivance, sabotage and manipulation aimed at frustrating efforts to find out the true state of UTL to inform further government action.
She thus assured Muhakanizi, Rukutana and whoever else doesn’t want UTL to be audited to first seek permission from president Museveni, since he is the one who instructed her to carry out the audit.
To cement her position, Anite wrote a letter to Muhakanizi dated August 2nd, 2019, which partly states thus;
“The audit into UTL was to me through my office sanctioned by H.E the President. I have clear and unequivocal instructions from the President to carry out an audit of UTL. In the absence of a contrary directive from him, I am not in position to act contrary to his directive and you and Hon. Matia Kasaija would be well advised to do likewise.”
She adds that the directive from the President predates any scheme that might subsequently be contrived to frustrate it and that it is not the subject of the UBC court proceedings and therefore not subjudice.
“I restate that UBC’s application for appointment of another Auditor is in bad faith because the audit process had commenced. Besides, the application to request court to appoint the Auditor General to undertake the audit is regrettable as the Auditor General in an earlier letter declined to undertake the audit,” Anite writes.
She cautions Muhakanizi to stop interfering with the implementation of Presidential directive and that by copy of her letter instructs the Internal Auditor General to proceed with auditing UTL.
UTL was put under administration of Twebaze Bemanya, the Registrar General of Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), after the departure of Libyan managers of UTL in 2017, due to debts amounting to over Shs700Bn and issues of mismanagement.
On top of managing the Company, Bemanya was tasked to get an investor to take over UTL, something he hasn’t done to date, because of the endless rope-pulling between him, Anite and other government officials.
For instance, in a few days back, Anite’s effort to audit UTL were also thwarted by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, Auditor General John Muwanga, Attorney General William Byaruhanga and Rukutana who argued that the company, according to the Administration Deed cannot be audited until the end of the Administrator’s tenure on 22nd November 2019. But Bemanya’s contract has since been renewed nine months ahead of its expiry, starting March 2020 till 2025.