The controversy raised by the publication of what State House calls wrong salaries of President Museveni's staff showed little sign of dying down, after the official explanation was challenged.
The latest questions arose from remarks made by Presidency Minister Frank Tumwebaze regarding when the error in the figures was communicated to Parliament. But there are also queries about apparent inconsistencies in staff salaries vis-à-vis their salary scales. On Tuesday evening, Parliament was outraged by the eight-figure payroll of State House employees read out by Opposition Chief Whip Cecilia Ogwal.
In response, government on Wednesday issued a new list of sanitized salaries for its employees in the office of the President and State House. In a robust response, the minister for the Presidency, Frank Tumwebaze, apologized to Parliament for what he called typographical mistakes contained in the policy statement for his ministry circulated to MPs on Tuesday.
"The fact is, the salaries indicated there have never been salaries of any staff of the office of the President because the Office of the President staff and [those of] State House are not in any way unique, they are staff of the Uganda public service," he told The Observer after his Parliamentary apology.
The Observer has learnt that prior to MP Ogwal's eyebrow-raising presentation on the floor of the House on Tuesday, at least two MPs had been approached by disgruntled government employees at the weekend. These public servants pointed out controversies in the new State House payroll. According to one of the MPs, the officials were displeased that they had not got a pay rise like some of their colleagues.
"They met me separately, but they told me that they had also met [my colleague] about the same. So, when I got [to Parliament on Tuesday], I had a chat with him and we decided that we give it to [Ogwal] to present it on the floor," one MP told us.
Ogwal's submission shocked MPs who demanded a government explanation. Information and National Guidance minister Rosemary Namayanja Nsereko said on Wednesday that government was surprised by Ogwal's submission more so because the Office of the President had sent out an addendum, correcting the mistakes in the original document.
"At the level of State House, they detected this mistake and sent an addendum clarifying the corrections. I'm only surprised that it is a senior legislator at the level of Cecilia Ogwal," Namayanja said.
She explained State House sent the addendum to the Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige on July 1 and it was received on July 4. However, this claim is now disputed by Ogwal.
"We were over 150 MPs in the house [on Tuesday]. You cannot assume that all of them, including the speaker, were not aware of the addendum. If they were, one of them could have stood up and [challenged me]. Not even the speaker was aware of the corrected version; they are just trying to defend themselves," Ogwal said, Wednesday.
She added that she received State House's revised list at 6pm on Tuesday, three hours after she had raised the matter on the floor.
"The good thing is that technology can show you when a document was sent, check our [MPs'] iPads; you'll discover that it was sent on Tuesday at 6:00pm," Ogwal said.
Namayanja, however, insists the soft copy, with the correct figures was sent to the MPs' iPads much earlier.
However, when asked about the contradiction, Parliament's Public Relations Manager Helen Kawesa confirmed the official version from State House. She said the addendum was sent to Parliament last week but it could not immediately be sent to the MPs.
"Uploading documents on the MPs' iPads takes some time, it is a gradual process, it cannot be instant because the documents come in hard copies and we have to scan them before they can be uploaded," Kawesa said.
She also blamed the confusion on Tumwebaze's delay to submit the policy statement to Parliament.
"They are required to submit those statements by June 30 but this one came in much later," Kawesa said.
The 48-page addendum, a copy of which The Observer has obtained, corrected salaries of about 760 employees listed under vote function 1611: Administration and support to the Presidency. According to the policy statement, Vote 002 which is State House, is subdivided into headquarters, which has the administration and support staff to the presidency, Office of the Vice President, Internal Audit and Medicines; and Health services delivery.
In the budget, the Presidency was allocated Shs 249.84bn. Of this, Shs 234.3bn was allocated to general staff salaries, a Shs 32.8bn increase from last year's allocations. Before the corrections, the administration and support staff had been allocated a purse of Shs 73.4bn which has fallen to Shs 6.2bn, according to the new list.
After the corrections, however, the overall total budget request for State House does not appear to have reduced to match the reductions in the components. The policy statement further reveals that State House's budget will get an increment of Shs 9.57bn next year and an additional Shs 12.09bn in the 2016/17 financial year to improve facilitation of the president.
Going by the changes, Anne Babinaga and Iryne Watenga Karamagi remain the highest paid employees in State House at Shs 8m per month each. These are followed by Museveni's personal physician, Dr Diana Phoebe Atwine, at Shs 6.5m, a month.
She is followed by her colleagues in the Medicines and health services monitoring unit namely; Agnes Nanteza Biryetega, Gloria Sseruwagi Kimuli, Jumba Pontiano Lwembaawo, Fortunate Hope Achiro and Charles Ayume who are paid Shs 6m a month each. This adds up to an annual pay cheque of Shs 514m.
This is way above the State House Comptroller Lucy Nakyobe's monthly pay of Shs 2.5m. By virtue of her appointment, Nakyobe is the head of the State House staff.
The lists also show a mismatch in the pay of State House employees. A scrutiny of both the policy statement and the addendum indicates that several staff earn significantly salaries despite being on the same salary scale. Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi, for instance, gets a monthly salary of Shs 820,556, Shs 161,382 more than his deputy Linda Wamboka Nabusayi who gets Shs 659,174.
The two, however, earn Shs 5.17m less than Francis Byamukama Bweshenga, Sheba Kyobutungi and Thomas Bahije Abwooli who too are on salary scale U3. Byamukama, Kyobutungi and Bahije are paid Shs 6m a month, Shs 3.48m more than their boss Nakyobe, who is at the higher salary scale of U2.
The list also shows that despite being the head, Nakyobe earns a lower salary than Florence Hashaka Kabahweza, Faridah S.S Najjuma, Anne Babinaga, Iryne Watenga Karamagi who are on salary scale U1. In this category, Babinaga and Watenga are the best paid at Shs 8m a month each while Hashaka, Najjuma, Rhoda Acen and Annette Mukabera earn Shs 7.3m a month.
In this league, the likes of Lydia Balemeezi, Mary Grace Akiror, Brig Proscovia Nalweyiso, among others, are the least-paid at Shs 2.2m. Tumwebaze, however denies that such a mismatch exists on the State House payroll.
"The salaries will always be the same, maybe the allowances can vary depending on the assignments," he said.
The payroll of the president's handlers sent the tongues of opposition MPs wagging.
"Can they now provide us with the qualifications of some of these people? We want to know, how does somebody access State House as an employee, when and how are these people recruited?" said one female legislator.
MPs Florence Namayanja (Bukoto East) and Beatrice Anywar (Kitgum Woman) called for Tumwebaze's resignation over the embarrassing mistake.