19 June 2017

Uganda: State House Is Dropping the Ball On Checks and Balances

editorial

On Friday, The Observer published contents of President Museveni's letter to the head of the Uganda National Roads Authority (unra), Allen Kagina, in which he explained why he rescinded his order to ban Dott Services from participating in government contracts.

In his letter, President Museveni says he acted to stem "obstructive activities" by Dott Services, which threatened to derail a road project in Kanungu district.

Museveni then adds that he rescinded the order after he was told by "one of our political contacts" that Dott Services withdrew their legal case on May 3, 2017.

"If, indeed, they withdrew that case and will not disturb any other remedial actions on Kanungu road or any other road, then I rescind my executive order, subject to the advice of the Attorney General," the president says.

The above sentence suggests that the head of state took the decision to rescind his order without confirming the authenticity of the information that he says his "political contacts" provided.

Museveni's letter to Kagina provides a window into the casual approach with which the office of the president has, of late, been conducting state business, if the frequency of the embarrassing U-turns is anything to go by.

Besides the Dott Services debacle, State House recently got egg all over its face when a letter from President Museveni commissioning an Inspectorate of Government investigation into the Uganda Wildlife Authority named two Chinese "diplomats" said to be engaged in ivory trafficking.

The Chinese protested vehemently, until Uganda publicly apologized to the Asian powerhouse.

Such actions point to a State House that is not carefully vetting information before making written directives or commitments to different institutions.

We are yet to know the source of this evident laxity but, perhaps, the purported intrigue among State House staff - as reported in our June 14, 2017 story titled Why Nakalema left State House - is one of the causes.

If Museveni's State House is to avoid more embarrassing missteps that we have been treated to in the recent past, then its staff need to get their act together and stop dropping the ball on ensuring sufficient checks and balances before the president makes certain commitments, especially in writing.

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