Dear Minister, on behalf of the NAADS Board of Directors of June 2009 to June 2012, I write to express our concern, demand an apology and show how consciously or unconsciously someone or you are killing the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) and the Agriculture sector in general. As you may be aware, recent success in agriculture as indicated in increase in food supply in 2011/12 is a byproduct of stretching back to 2006.
Why an apology?
In your December 19, 2012 letter to the Prime Minister, you gave five reasons why you could no longer work with the Board I headed. Among the accusations were corruption and the Board being answerable to the World Bank and Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and ignoring MAAIF.
You wrote this letter in error because on the said Board there were patriotic men and women with integrity and social standing. Prof. Mwaka Victoria, Dr. Johnny Mugisha of Makerere University, Dr. Emily Twinamasiko whom you have appointed as Director General of NARO, Dr. Mwalimu Musheshe of the Uganda Rural Development Programme and African Rural University, the Permanent Secretary, MAAIF and the nine National Famers Forum (NFF) representatives.
Given that the ministry was represented at that level, how was it possible that there was corruption and you did not know! We served NAADS diligently without fear or favour and worked hard to ensure the many centers of power and influence that were distorting the philosophy behind NAADS had reduced influence. In fact WB and MFPED considered the NAADS Board a stumbling block.
That twice His Excellency the president of Uganda had suspended NAADS operations with the Board failing to guide the Executive: This is gross misinformation. NAADS activities were first suspended in 2008. Our Board assumed office on June 15, 2009. On NAADS Board's recommendation, Hope Mwesigye, then-minister of MAAIF, instituted a Task Force to investigate mismanagement in NAADS at the Secretariat and in the districts in September 2009. Dr. Twinamasiko headed that task force.
Unfortunately, the Task Force was disbanded when you came to office. It is on record that money was recovered and some officers in the districts were apprehended and charged with embezzlement. Besides the Task Force, each Board member was allocated a region to monitor and mentor staff and still serve their respective constituencies like women, PWDs and Youth. Many issues were identified during such missions. Some were addressed.
We were beginning to see changes in service delivery and corruption was going down. The Board leadership was advocating for more involvement and participation of farmers in determining the direction of the farmers' movement.
The second time NAADS was suspended was in 2010 following findings of the above Task Force. During the same period we were working on ATAAS and the new direction of NAADS and NARO. Subsequently, President Yoweri Museveni recommended the expansion of NAADS services effectively to the village level and a strategic refocus on ATAAS. This you have not implemented.
You claim that the NAADS BOARD's working relationship with the Executive was poor: It was poor because corruption was rife; there was power struggle in the Executive headed by Dr. Nahyd Silim. There were many cases at the IGG offices which Secretariat Officers managed to suppress. The habit of depositing programme money on Staff accounts was rife. Staff would spend as they wished and at the end of the year do accountabilities without verification.
Rumour had it that money would be returned and shared with persons in other centers of influence. The NAADS Executive could hold money on a dormant account for a long time. One time the Board had to force them to release Shs 7 billion to the districts which was unusual. Having appraised staff and found several of them wanting, we started fresh recruitment, dismantling syndicates of patronage. Trouble begun with recruitment of the Executive Director(ED).
Clear Specifications were given in light of ATAAS. We had noted that the majority of the Management Team, including the then ED were all researchers. Then a bomb shell: you recommended we recruit an extension person for the position of Executive Director who did not meet the Board's specifications. That person turned up to be your cousin brother a one Komayombi. This was rejected. Since then the Board became corrupt by your new definition. You had asked us to recruit your niece who also does not have qualifications. I refused. I am told that now she is working at NAADS is unclear circumstances.
The Board had lost direction? When you have everyone in the ministry trying to look at NAADS as a milking cow then there is a problem. The NAADS Act 2001 is clear on how people access support from NAADS. Look at the resources flow and the influence emanating from MAAIF including fictitious projects. The Board was critical of such patterns hence what you call "not being answerable to the mother ministry, MAAIF". I am afraid whereas we did our work well, the persons heading the institution were losing moral authority. A lot will need to be done to reverse this and work with a new board and the Secretariat to serve the farmers well.
The scandal of the year was the way the National Farmers Forum meeting of January 8, 2013 was conducted. Several anomalies were noted:
The previous Board was not allowed to give the farmers their report in spite of the fact that the Chairman insisted on submitting it. Why was that?
Contrary to Section 23 of the NAADS Act which stipulates,"------the National Farmers Forum shall regulate their own procedures in relation to membership, holding meetings, election of office bearers, duration of office and any other matters relating to management of the farmer groups and farmer fora", the Meeting Agenda was prepared by the Minister and not discussed by the delegates.
The Manager, Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr. Francis Byekwaso read out the modalities of selecting farmers' representatives. He included a group of invitees provided for in the Act in different status but not provisioned for to constitute a special college without discussing it with the delegates. In whose interest is this group going to function?
The Act provides for 9 farmers representatives from the districts; three of whom must be women, two youths and one person with disability. Electoral colleges for such special groups were not constituted.
The Farmers delegates meeting was hijacked starting with the agenda, the proceedings, nomination of members which rose from 14 members to 20. When the names of nominees were read, the scores were not recorded.
What space shall the special group you called the Fifth Electoral College occupy? Section 8 (2) stipulates, "the members of the Board under section (a) and (C) of section (1) shall be appointed by the Minister in CONSULTATION with the National Farmers Forum". In the NFF it is only the farmers to nominate fellow farmers to be on the Board (section 22 (e)). In the event the Minister wants to nominate members on the Board outside the Farmer Forum, it is provided for in section 8 (c)-(f).
In conclusion you accused the Board for the very ills it was stopping including influence peddling. Two, NAADS has been squarely hijacked at your direction that is why you have operated without a Board of Directors for about one year. Original intent was to have NAADS as a farmer-led and demand driven organisation. Farmers will progressively lose interest because you have undermined their ownership and instituted another version of corruption by creating another tier for representation of interest groups whom you carefully selected.
You have squeezed the true National Farmers Forum. Denying the former Board to submit their report to the meeting, was a sign of lack of transparency. You seem to be craftily eliminating the active people who demonstrated commitment to procedures, the law, and staff who exhibited good understanding of NAADS as a farmers' organisation. The real patriots are a threatened species. NAADS is in danger.
Mwalimu Musheshe (PhD), is a former Chairman, Board of Directors, NAADS, and founder of Uganda Rural development and Training Programme and African Rural University, Kagadi.