Before the dust settles in the leadership fight for control of the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) is embroiled in yet another battle for jobs in parliament.
The prized jobs are under the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP). FDC, which holds the LOP job, wants the jobs held by people loyal to the party leadership.
The LOP’s office was upgraded to a department at the beginning of the current tenure of parliament, which meant a bigger budget and more jobs – some of which are filled by technical parliamentary staff. The LOP has leeway to recruit political staff who are hired by parliament on contractual terms.
Following her appointment as LOP last August, Gulu Woman MP Betty Aol Ocan summoned all staff attached to her office for a meeting. She boldly told the employees to prepare to leave because she wanted to hire people of her choice.
Multiple sources interviewed for this story within parliament have told The Observer that Aol mostly targeted staffers recruited by her predecessor, Kasese Woman MP Winfred Kiiza.
Aol was, however, shocked to learn that the Parliamentary Commission was not willing to sack any employee for fear of being sued. Although some of the political staff under Kiiza were recruited by her predecessors; Nathan Nandala-Mafabi and Wafula Oguttu – their loyalty to Najjanankumbi is doubted. It is understood that FDC leaders had drawn up a list of people they wanted to take up the jobs at parliament but were disappointed to learn that Kiiza had given them longer contractual periods.
“The best practice in a political office is that you give people shorter contracts, which is what Oguttu did; he gave shorter periods. Very many new staff that were recruited by Kiiza were given long periods yet their contracts, ideally shouldn’t have gone beyond December 2018,” Aol said in an interview on Monday.
Aol reportedly expressed similar disappointment in a meeting with staff in her office last year. She wondered why parliament would give anyone a contract of more than two and a half years.
She nonetheless said the political staff would have to leave the jobs so she can bring in new people. Worried, the staff petitioned Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige Lubowa and later Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.
Meanwhile, Aol was also mobilizing support within the Parliamentary Commission to have both the technical and political staff attached to her office shown the exit. Since the technical staff are permanent employees of parliament, Aol asked the commission to transfer them to other departments, and have the political employees’ contracts terminated.
The technical staff Aol wants moved include; Ruth Byoona, the director of the LOP’s department, Salim Katumba (policy analyst), Carol Akullo (economist), Esther Namukose (statistician), Sylvia Bugembe (office assistant) and Killion Bwambale, a former political assistant to Kiiza.
Bugembe, a sister to the late DP secretary General Mathias Nsubuga, was picked by Kiiza from the DP office and given a contract that expires at the end of February just like Bwambale’s contract.
Other unwanted staff include; Rajab Kaaya, Mishack Nuwabiine, Asaph Ntanda and Moses Kyaligonza who were recently promoted to senior or principal levels and given new three-year contracts.
The Parliamentary Commission roundly rejected Aol’s request. Kadaga reportedly told the commission that she cannot support the termination of anyone’s contract unless Aol is willing to buy out the running contracts.
Aol was, however, cleared to recruit a personal assistant and a driver. She gave the personal assistant job to her daughter, Stella Atimango but hopes to hire Onghwens Kisangala as her senior personal assistant.
According to parliament’s structure, the ordinary staff under salary scale PC-4 earn a net monthly salary of Shs 7 million while those at senior level under salary scale PC-3 earn about Shs 9 million. Anyone promoted to the principal level earns a monthly pay cheque of about Shs 12 million.
Besides the jobs, the party is also looking at possible funding from consultancy firms the LOP hires to offer consultancy services. Writing the alternative policy statements is among the heavily funded activities under the LOP’s department, taking up almost Shs 500m of the about Shs 3 billion annual budget allocated to the opposition leader.
Kiiza gave this job to Dr Patrick Wakida’s Research World International (RWI). Aol wants parliament to cancel RWI’s contract and award it to a consultancy firm owned by former Bukedea MP Albert Okello Oduman.
Besides the money aspect, Aol is afraid that an unwilling team of employees will fail her.
“When I was being appointed, there are goals that were set for me but the FDC expectations may not be achieved with a team I am not comfortable with, and which is also not comfortable with me,” Aol told The Observer.
Aol is clear about her discomfort with working with staff that support General Mugisha Muntu’s political group - the New Formation.
“You know we have a split in FDC; there are people here who may not be willing to work with FDC, what do you do with such people? Imagine asking someone to do some work and he chooses to sleep behind the computer,” Aol said.