The director for communications and public affairs at parliament Chris Obore has been sent on forced leave.
Jane Kibirige, the clerk of parliament wrote to Obore on Wednesday, noting that "I have been directed to inform you to take your accumulated leave with immediate effect."
The letter was copied to the speaker Rebecca Kadaga, deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah, deputy clerk corporate affairs, Henry Waiswa, and deputy clerk and also the directors for human resource and finance. One of the sources, who preferred anonymity says that Kibirige also directed Obore that even when the 140 days of his accumulated leave elapse, he will only return to the office if he is called back by parliament.
Kibirige also instructed Obore to hand over office to the deputy clerk corporate affairs, Henry Waiswa. Obore is said to have received the letter on Wednesday and forwarded it to his lawyers, Kampala Associated Advocates.
On Thursday, Obore’s lawyers responded to Kibirige's letter noting that the public service standing orders stipulate that a public servant must apply for leave within a given calendar year and failure to do so, he or she has to forfeit the days for leave not taken.
The public service standing orders provide that leave cannot be accumulated from one calendar year to another unless the public officer’s request to carry forward the leave was approved. The standing orders provide that a public officer must have submitted a request to carry forward annual leave to the relevant offices for approval by 15th December.
In Obore’s case, the lawyers noted that this did not happen and therefore, it is illegal to send him on accumulated leave that he did not apply for by 15th December 2018. On Friday Obore found the locks of his office had been changed by officers attached to the Office of the Seargent–At-Arms.
One of the lawyers at Kampala Associated Advocates, Jet John Tumwebaze said that he will respond to the matter on Saturday. Obore's lawyers have also protested Kibirige’s decision amidst a pending petition in court. In April, the High court ruled that the termination of Obore's contract should be halted until the main petition is disposed of.
Obore’s troubles started in March this year when Kibirige notified Obore that the inspectorate of government had conducted investigations noting that his recruitment as the director communication and public affairs was founded on illegalities because it contravened the Parliamentary Service (Staff) Regulations, 2001.
However, Obore through his lawyers, Kampala Associated Advocates applied for an injunction restraining the Parliamentary Commission from implementing the clerk’s decision to terminate his employment until the matter is determined. Obore was recruited on August 19, 2015 by the Parliamentary Service.
How Obore was ‘irregularly’ recruited by parliament
A nearly 3-year probe into the appointment of parliament's director communications and public affairs, Chris Obore concluded early this year with the recommendation that the former Nation Media's journalist be relieved of his duties. We retrace how Obore ended up in the job, that by all indications, did not possess the required qualifications for.
When the parliamentary commission sought to recruit a director of communications and public affairs in 2012, Hellen Nanteza Kaweesa, the current deputy director CPA was the sole applicant for the position.
Kaweesa had secured a nod from the interview panel for a promotion to the position of director communications and public affairs (CPA). The position holder was expected to offer strategic communication direction to the parliament and promote the institution's visibility. The director is the official spokesperson of the parliament.
But the recommendation was rubbished by the parliament commission chaired by the speaker Rebecca Kadaga on the basis that she had failed to defend and promote the image of the institution according to an extract of minutes of the parliamentary commission held in February 2013.
Instead, the commission opted to advertise the job externally. According to the job advert, the suitable candidate was expected to hold an honours degree in mass communication, communication studies, journalism, or arts with communication and public relations studied as subjects, from a recognized university plus a master's degree in a relevant field.
The applicant was also expected to have a working experience of 10 years, part of which was as a communication/public relations or information, protocol and public affairs department from a recognized institution or at the level of assistant commissioner in a government institution.
The external advert attracted 20 applicants. They included Simon Peter Kasyate, Gilbert Kadilo, Bernard Eceru, Peter Okello Jabweli, Isaac Kalembe, Julius Wandera, Aloysius Mubiru, Otim Jimmy, Dennis Natukunda, Atibuni Kefa, Eka Emmanuel, Muti Cyrus, and Naomi Karekaho Namara.
The other applicants included Godwin Muhwezi, Anita Nshakira, Akwong Jonan Wilson, Elvis Kalema, Reuben Twinomujuni, Simon Katende, John Julius Wandera and Ocuilage Micheal Otai.
Of the 20, only two candidates got a nod on the basis of experience, age and clarity of application. They include Gilbert Kadilo and Bernard Eceru. Although the majority of the others held master's degrees, a report by the panel indicates that they did not possess the relevant qualifications as stated in the advert. Peter Jabweri was eliminated for not attaching his master’s degree certificate to the application.
However, even the two initially successful candidates were eliminated on grounds that Kadilo’s experience at the time of application, was only two years and three months at head of department level while Bernard Eceru had no experience at the head of the department level. At the time of application Eceru was a public relations officer at unit level.
Basing on the outcome of the process, the parliamentary committee on Human Resource and Administration decided that the commission undertakes head-hunt recruitment for the position.
The decision was taken in a meeting attended by the clerk to parliament Jane Kibirige, Nokrach William, the then chairperson of the subcommittee, MP Rosemary Sseninde, former commissioner Rose Akol, and parliament staff Okumu Dison, Okello Obabaru, and Masereka Benson.
The committee identified former MP Onapito Ekomoloit, East African newspaper bureau chief Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi, Daniel Kalinaki then Daily Monitor investigations editor, Chris Obore as potential candidates for the job. However, on adoption of this report by the parliamentary commission, Dr Peter G. Mwesige, the executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) was suggested and added to the list.
Parliament then sent out letters inviting the candidates for interaction with the parliamentary commission on May 20, 2015. However, only two candidates; Charles Mwanguhya and Chris Obore expressed interest in the position. The rest did not turn up.
An interview panel composed of the then Leader of Opposition, Wafula Oguttu, clerk to parliament Jane Kibirige, Nansubuga Rosemary Sseninde, Akol Rose Okullu, Henry Rugamba and Dison Okumu interacted with the two candidates, awarding Obore 77.86 and Mwanguhya 67.00.
The committee noted that both candidates scored above the pass mark of 60 per cent and therefore qualified for the job. However, based on the ranking of the scores, the committee recommended to the parliamentary commission that Obore be offered the appointment to the post with effect from September 1. Obore took the oath of office on September 3, 2015.
But this process was challenged by a whistleblower indicating that Obore did not have the minimum 10 years of service, as set by the Public Service Commission for the position and that he did not possess a master's degree as required.
A subsequent systematic investigation by the Inspectorate of Government established that the appointment was based on illegality and that it was in contravention of the parliamentary service regulations. On the basis of the letter, the clerk to parliament has instructed a review of Obore’s employment with parliament.
Prior to his appointment, Obore had been an investigative reporter with the Daily Monitor and only held a bachelor's degree in mass communication, obtained from Islamic University in Uganda. He completed a master's degree in Public Policy and Governance last year at the Uganda Management Institute (UMI).
Upon his appointment, Obore undertook a task to transform the public relations of parliament, working closely with Kadaga. Obore's working relations with Kadaga reportedly broke down leading to Kadaga to appoint Sam Obbo as her principle press secretary, sidelining Obore in the process.
In March this year, clerk to parliament, Kibirige wrote to Obore indicating that his contract had to be terminated following an investigation that he was illegally recruited.
After receiving his contract termination letter dated March 5, Obore on March 22, ran to the High court seeking an injunction restraining the parliamentary commission from implementing the clerk’s decision to terminate his employment until the matter is determined.