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Lady with a mission

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Jennifer Semakula Musisi is determined to use her skills in business to transform Kampala

Strict. Hardworking. Talented. Quick. Honest. They are words that those who know her use to describe Jennifer Semakula Musisi who is into her second month as executive director of the newly established Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

“She is an exceptionally talented and honest person. Her integrity is unquestionable,” says Andrew Kasirye, a former head of Uganda Law Society, who taught her in law school.
“Kampala needs a lady like her who is a good listener, who cannot be bribed and can bring the stakeholders together. Jennifer is a quick learner and I have no doubt that when it comes to issues of urban planning and management, she will easily adapt.”

“Despite the strict attitude, she has a motherly side,” said someone who worked with her at the Uganda Revenue Authority where she was a commissioner, “She is always sharing with the staff to see how they can improve themselves economically.”

None of her tellers shows through when Jennifer Musisi looks you in the eye. What you see is a petite woman with a mischievous glint in her firm stare, whose sharp suits, dangling earrings, and pulled back weave of shoulder length straight hair reveal her taste for corporate high fashion. She is a powerful woman, who is obviously comfortable with her femininity. Her passion for interior and landscape designing, sewing and painting are well known.


So on May 9 when she held her first press conference, her neatly pressed blue striped suit contrasted sharply with the walls of the dilapidated Kampala City Council offices with their peeling paint. It came as no surprise when she expressed her desire to refurbish the building and described it as “a beautiful building that has been left to rot” which is an apt metaphor for the organisation she now heads.

Construction was in high gear for the Shs 77 million swearing-in event of the Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago that was held on May 20.  She said most of the toilets were not functioning and the Mayor’s Parlour had to be spruced up. She was a woman in hurry.

On May 10 she wrote a letter to Stephen Kinyera Otto, the director of Works and Urban Planning at KCC advising him to handover office on May 11 and proceed on his “annual leave with immediate effect”. It was tacit notice that he had been fired.

On May 11, she dispatched a similarly worded letter to Engineer Charles Sembatya, the KCC’s Building Inspector. Unlike Kinyera, Eng. Sembatya was asked to handover office on the same day the letter was written.

Kinyera is accused of doing shoddy works on city roads whose potholes have become legendary. Sembatya was accused of failure to beat the December 2010 deadline which had been extended to April this year to complete constructing the City Hall toilets.

“Those people were found not doing their work and the Authority cannot keep on with them,” a source close to the Musisi told The Independent.

On May 12 reports trickled in that the head of KCC’s planning department, Richard Kabuuka, had fallen off a building and died in what was suspected to be suicide. He, like many others at KCCA, had reportedly just received a letter advising him to reapply for his job. He was buried on May 14 but the KCCA grapevine is full of tales of panic among the top managers over impending sackings.  Musisi had been in office for barely two weeks but her presence was already being felt.

“A lot rot has been unearthed at KCC, and more sackings and resignations or forced leave are in the pipeline,” said a source who asked to remain anonymous.

Musisi is the first holder of the KCA Executive Director’s job under the Kampala Capital City Act (2009) passed in November last year and it is no secret that she intends to overhaul the body. “You must have a team of people who can deliver,” when journalists asked her about senior workers at KCCA who were living in fear of losing their jobs. “I’m not the one to cause anybody to lose their jobs. There is a new law according to which it’s the ministry of public service to now handle human resource because Kampala is now an authority no longer under local government. It’s unfortunate some will be affected. What we are looking at now is facilitating pre-retirement trainings and counseling. What people are afraid of is something that happens in all organizations and it’s not me imposing new things.”

In March, KCC ceased to operate as part of the Local Government as the new law transformed it into Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) with the executive director as the top administrator.  KCCA is under the central government and its staff recruitment is handled by the Ministry of Public Service. Musisi is a presidential appointee together with Beatrice Wabudeya, who is the Minister for Kampala. The elected Lord Mayor is the political head of KCCA but the role is perceived as largely ceremonial although its first job holder, Erias Lukwago, appears determined to carve out a substantial role for the office.

Under the new Kampala law, many changes were created including the reviewing of the existing functions of the council and restructuring the staff to promote modern, effective and productive authority for better service delivery.

Fortunately, corporate restructuring is nothing new to Musisi. Before this assignment she had worked at URA for 13 years and risen to the level of Commissioner Legal Services and Board Affairs where she was involved policy formulation and implementation both at the Board and management levels. She was one of the managers behind major reforms at URA that led to the establishment and effectiveness of the in-house legal function at the URA.

It appears unscrupulous tendering deals, an area that has failed previous attempts to reform KCC, are her immediate target. As soon as she assumed office on April 18, she halted all the decisions that were made since March 1, when the new law came into effect. She said there is an ongoing review of the transactions that have been carried out at KCC. On May 16, Musisi had a meeting with the Auditor General about the accounts of KCC as a part of an audit to determine value for money and expenditure of public funds allocated to City Hall in the previous years.

She is reviewing KCC’s corporate strategy and structure and specifying job roles in an establishment associated with high corruption and poor service delivery.

Her vision is a filth free city, with good roads, designated refuse dumping spots, and efficient service delivery. Basing on her background in managing private enterprises like The Cake Lady Company Ltd and Jef Building Company where she is a director, Musisi appears determined to bring a new business management style to KCCA. For now, however, it is her experience as counselor and mentor to youth and women that she must harness to re-assure her shaken staff.

Comments (5)Add Comment
Let her do her job!
written by mo, June 06, 2011
May be Jennifer Musisi is what Kampala finally needs and gets! Let the woman do her job. Time will tell if she is really up for it and all those crusty old men at KCC perhaps needed their cobwebs dusting off and she's doing just that.
Long may she live!
is wabudeya still a minister?
written by kato, June 08, 2011
The media has taken it upon themselves to insist that wabudeya is still minister. can the media and especially the independet call up wabudeya or the prime minister's office to clarify. all ministries had to have ministers appointed or reappointed when the latest parliament came in. everyone knows that wabudeya was not on the list.
written by DAVID, June 08, 2011
There are high prospects that Musisi will do a nice job as pertaining to the reorganisation of Kampala City. To fulfil this job, she should work hand-in-hand with the Lord Mayor, the Resident City Commissioners (RCC).
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