In a country where public corruption pervades government at almost all tiers, the National Secretariat of Patriotism Clubs (NSPC) at the Office of the President has not been spared either.
Once safely out of the news, two whistle-blowers have thrust the secretariat into an unwelcome public spotlight. Clinton Mushega, a member of the Council for Inter-University NRM Chapters, and Didas Victor Ngaya, a coordinator at the council, have written to President Museveni and the Inspector General of Government alerting them to the deep-seated corruption eating up the national office created largely at the urging of the president.
The two whistle-blowers also worked for the secretariat but were sacked. In their dossier received by the IGG on January 11, 2019, the whistle-blowers accuse the secretariat head Brigadier Patrick Mwesigye of presiding over the misappropriation of secretariat funds, double accounting, nepotism and fictitious accountability, among others.
“The people whom you think are mobilizing and promoting nation-building ideas of patriotism are betraying you and [are] busy misappropriating funds for their personal gains and frequently travel abroad in the guise of capacity building,” the six-page dossier reads in part.
They claim that from the time the president transferred Brig Henry Masiko who was the commissioner of Patriotic Clubs in Uganda from 2009 to 2017; there have been several personnel changes at the secretariat where qualified people have been replaced with individuals closely related to the commissioner.
Brig Mwesigye is accused of employing his son Castro Mwesigye as a data entrant and his relative Warrant Officer Two Richard Mugisha as the communication officer without following proper recruitment channels yet there is a principal officer in charge of Education, Information and Communication, Deo Seburimage, whose duties are clearly laid out by the Public Service Commission.
The dossier adds that Mwesigye also gave his wife an official vehicle; a double- cabin Nissan registration number UG 1927C, which is serviced, fuelled and with a driver and escort, all paid for by the government.
“He also included his wife on the secretariat payroll yet she is not a member of staff,” the whistle-blowers claim.
Some attached documents show that a person going by the names of Lulu Itipa was on August 12, 2017 paid Shs 720,000 to carry out patriotism training at Kampala International University Western Campus yet the very person had passed away in 2016.
Interviewed for this story yesterday, the IGG’s office confirmed receiving the dossier. “We received the documents and they are still being reviewed to see what actions to take,” Munira Ali, the Inspectorate spokesperson said.
She said such information takes about two weeks to investigate but this particular dossier needs some research before action is taken. Interviewed for a response to the dossier, the secretariat’s communications officer Richard Mugisha, who is also accused of being a relative of Brig Mwesigye, said his boss never employed his son. He said Mwesigye’s son was a volunteer like many others.
“Castro Mwesigye was here but he left, if you check in the admissions of the Petroleum Institute in Muyenga, the boy is pursuing a master’s degree there, and not a staff of the secretariat as alleged; that is just malice,” he said.
He said the secretariat has all the documentary evidence about Mwesigye’s wife, Castro and himself. He said the whistle-blowers are not credible because they were lowly ranking employees at the secretariat.
“These people were like interns; I don’t think interns know what happens at The Observer and the information they have is not credible,” he said.
About Mwesigwa’s wife driving an official car, Mugisha said the vehicle had been grounded.
“There is some close truth about the vehicle, but Mwesigye had asked the permanent secretary in the Office of the President to use the vehicle. Mwesigye did the repairs and used it but it will still be taken back to the secretariat,” he said.
He added, “The vehicle is not fuelled by the secretariat and I can tell you everything about the car is on record.”
Mugisha said Ngaya and Mushega were disgruntled secretariat volunteers who were fired for extortion.
“Ngaya and Mushega were volunteers with NSPC but were expelled when they started using their attachment to State House to extort the public,” he said.
In their dossier, the whistle-blowers claim that money is budgeted for at the secretariat but never gets paid to the rightful people. Secretariat people, the dossier says, are paid for activities they never carry out and patriotism instructors are paid less than the budgeted amounts.
It adds that some schools even pay for patriotism trainings but secretariat officials go ahead and claim money for the paid activities. The dossier singles out a scheduled training of about 700 students of Hoima School of Clinical Officers. The school allegedly cleared all the expenses but secretariat people in their accountability claimed they paid for everything.
The dossier also points out a case in Kakumiro district where about 1,000 youths in 2018 missed a one week’s patriotism training because officials at the Patriotism Secretariat drew per diem and fuel allowances but never showed up for the training.
“However, they attached a list of ghost participants who didn’t attend the training claiming to be accountability,” the dossier says.
The dossier also points to another case where 800 students of Akaro Secondary School Lira were trained in 2017 but the same training was included in the accountability of 2018.
But Mugisha insists there is documentary evidence to show that at no time was there an official who claimed an allowance without doing work.
Attached to the dossier are supporting documents from the Auditor General’s Office querying some accountability from the secretariat where money was spent without documents such as receipts to support the expenditures.
Don Wanyama, the senior presidential press secretary, said if the dossier was received by Lt Col Nakalema, it will be handled.
“Of course investigating corruption and getting people pay must be done meticulously; otherwise, the cases will collapse, ‘they’ [petitioners] should be patient,” Wanyama said in a short text message.
Ever since the secretariat was created in 2010, almost Shs 10bn has been appropriated to it. However, according to a letter from the Auditor General’s Office, there has not been any impact assessment done to see whether there has been value for money.