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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.

One comment

  1. NDA is, to say the least, from a strategist’s view is a smouldering chandelier of Political and mismanagement affiliated chaos. There’s a couple of invisible hands that reign at NDA to secure one at the helm.
    Sematiko was resisted since his first time to rise best candidate at interviews that brought Mr. Muhairwe later in office as Executive secretary. Mr. Muhairwe had a God father at the MOH who propped up him to take the job on allegedly tribalistic grounds after quashing Sematiko’s victory and labeling Sematiko a criminal without charges leveled against him. Indeed Mr. Muhairwe attempted to stand for the position of NDA boss the third time when the contract offered him only two terms. That alone explains how connected the guy was/is. Muhairwe’s application was , however trashed by panelists that underlined his attempt at the job as unacceptable.

    Sematiko’s second shot at the post around 2011 was vehemently resisted by the same group of mafias who had blocked him earlier but failed upon clearance of the same earlier allegations against him by the IGG.
    Around 2012, elements in Police CID Headquarters were used to conduct a fake investigation at NDA advancing reason of alleged gross mismanagement and lack of accountability at the Head office. The effort calculated to find fault with Sematiko who was targeted became futile upon finding that all his travel records and others were up to date and properly filed.
    Another attempt on Sematiko, invoked in the Medicines and Health Monitoring Unit to conduct a commission of inquiry into alleged MISMANAGEMENT at NDA. At the end of of its work, it recommended inter alia the immediate dismissal of Sematiko citing illegal occupation of office having been irregularly appointed by the Board chaired by Dr. Mwesigye who was sacked with others from NDA for the sin of appointing an enemy. The scheme failed when Dr. Bariseene Mwesigye sued the Hon. Minister Adoa for taking the law in her hands of which an appeal was logged in by the Minister against the advice of the Attorney General after NDA had lost the first plaint at High Court but still Dr. Mwesigye won the legal duel of which taxpayer paid through the nose. The confusion created by these cases enabled the embattled Sematiko to stay in office until when Cosase of Parliament ratified his appointment. Later a full fledged Board was constituted which was being mobilized to remove Sematiko upon adoption of minutes of the Medicines and Health Monitoring Unit’s report.
    This delayed as some members had no vendetta against Sematiko.

    Sematiko’s water loo was in 2015 when the vultures in NDA backed by the mafias learnt that he (Sematiko) was requesting the Board for a second term at the helm. They ganged up looked for any blame to come up with against him until when they discovered a transfer of funds US$ 5,000,000 FROM Standard chartered bank to Orient bank’s Fixed deposit account (FDR). Sematiko and others were accused of overriding the system and fraudulently taking away Authorities fund without Board authorization.
    In response to accusation, the accused trio clarified that it was agreed in the 38th Meeting of the 5th Authority of NDA Board that redundant funds on accounts queried by Auditor general be invested for interest generating purposes instead of losing it in bank charges levied.
    The first FDR deposit was cleared by the Board on minutes basis and the principal fixed in Stanchart bank where after 03 months the funds generated interest of over US $ 38,000 because of a merge interest margin but preferred by “those with interestin the bank” among Board members of NDA.
    Basing on the same Board minutes, it was allowed that upon good performance, the same fund would be re-invested for a longer period ((6-12 months) of which signed minutes are handy and an audio tape recording quoting proceedings on the investment subject. NDA Management, therefore under Sematiko took to re–invest the same funds but this time round in Orient bank though at a higher interest rate of 4.75% was not favoured as Stanchart or Stanbic by leading elements on the Board because of vested interests. Indeed , it is on record that they faulted Sematiko why he did not halve the funds and bank them in stanchart and Stanbic banks even if it meant earning lower interest rates. Sematiko pointed out that he would again be mostl likely accused by the Board for causing financial loss like what befell Dr Muhairwe with investments of Global fund monies.
    Reaction of the Board happened to be querying Sematiko and other Management staff (Finance and Auditor) to explain where they got the Board resolution to transfer the funds. Their answer to this was that there was no Board resolution since even the first investment carried no resolution and only based on Board minutes.
    Upon failure to induce the accused to file an apology to justify Board impugned action against them, the Board moved to suspend all the three officers under disguise of istepping aside to allow nvestigations that after a few days they lifted to become a summary dismissal.
    Long story short, for those who have a name to protect, NDA is not a safe zone for you. It’s all about intrigue, back stabbing, looting, character assassination. Pharmacists under mine colleagues in that every one values own University where he graduated from. Those trained in Uganda think that those who went abroad were failures who could not make it Makerere but rescued by money. It’s a crime for one who studied from abroad to lead those who studied here who regard you as non starter. Basing on he Institution’s history, no one goes to head NDA and come out clean unless if you have highly placed god fathers in government. Take Dr. Nganwa, Dr. Lule , Kabogo,Kakwemeire, Sematiko, Kusemererwa they were all bruised and tarnished in a way.
    Sematiko was also targeted by those who expected to make a fortune out of the contract for building a new tower to house the NDA headquarters. They needed one of their own in place to help themselves on the loot once chance came afloat. Gordon to some was a stumbling block to their future grabbing chances.
    The controversy that arose over the mentioned tender (much as sematiko had been kicked out) was telling of how the hyenas had placed themselves for the carcass. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT A CONTRACT MEANT FOR NDA WAS SENT TO BE EVALUATED BY URA as if NDA had no procuremet gurus?. Iam privy to circumstances where such is allowed but there was no reason to justify this.

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