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Fight to control national drugs body

 

Donna Kusemererwa

Executive Director Kusemererwa’s troubles raise questions about why NDA’s top job has always been controversial

Kampala, Uganda | FLAVIA NASSAKA | “I talk to you as who?” asked Donna Asiimwe Kusemererwa before denying the Independent an interview appointment.  The Executive Director at National Drug Authority was probably still getting to terms with a High Court ruling made a day before. On Sept.12, Justice Stephen Musota of the civil division of High court had declared her appointment to the drug body’s top job null and void and also barred her from acting in the position of secretary to the authority.

“A declaration that the position of the Executive Director in which the 2nd respondent (Ms Kusemererwa) was appointed was/is nonexistent and contrary to Section 54(2) of the National Drug Authority Act Cap 206. An order of Mandamus do issue directing the Authority of the National Drug Authority (the 1st Respondent) to advertise the vacant position of secretary within 60 days from the day of this ruling including weekends and public holidays,” read the judgment in part.

This ruling followed an application challenging the legality of this position by a member of her staff, one Florence Nakachwa, after Kusemererwa attempted to terminate her contract as the head of Drug Assessment and Registration earlier in March.

When the Independent visited the offices based on Lumumba Avenue in Kampala on Sept.13, it was telling. Neither Kusemererwa nor Nakachwa, or even Fredrick Sekyaana; whose job is basically to speak for the organization, wanted to say a thing. In search for answers we spoke to Board Chairman Medard Bitekyerezo and he wants Kusemererwa in office.

“We are appealing for this ruling to be overturned. I like this woman (Kusemererwa) because she doesn’t eat government money,” the former Mbarara municipality legislator said. Then he lunged into a tale of intrigue and fraud within the body.  “People here are fighting us because we don’t entertain thieves. We know people here who are conniving with importers to bring in fake drugs and repackage them”.

Bitekyerezo, who is just six months old in the new position, said that during his time as the chairman of the Parliamentary Health Committee, he realized the industry was full of “tactical quacks”. So he came in with a new approach to ‘cleanse’ the organization and restore its credibility.  To do this he says he needs a professional and excellent manager.

In an earlier interview, he had told the Independent, “People here are not given targets and I am now telling them that they will have targets and if they go into intrigue and don’t deliver results, we will fire them and bring in those who are able to work”.

Nakachwa was probably one of the first victims of the new method of work. Her performance was appraised and in a Mar.17 letter signed by Kusemererwa her contract was terminated. On June 06, another top employee – Mark Kamanzi, the Head of Legal Services was fired.  Both refused to leave office and have since run to court to block their dismissal citing due process; that they were never given reason or a chance to explain themselves.

Nakachwa went ahead to challenge the way her boss was appointed noting that apart from the fact that the post is non- existent, the human resource manual which provides for advertising the position before appointment was also not followed. In her application, she noted the tax payer will be losing Shs30million per month in salary payment for a ghost occupant.

If the body’s appeal is not successful and Kusemererwa walks out of the door, the pharmacist and former director at the Joint Medical Stores will have worked for just a year of her five years contract.  Meanwhile, the people she sought to fire will remain at their job and Chairman Bitekyerezo will have another fight on his hands.

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