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Parliament in catch-22 over Obore’s ‘irregular’ appointment

FILE PHOTO: Chris Obore taking oath on his appointment.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | 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 of Uganda and promote the institution’s visibility. The director is the official spokesperson of the Parliament of Uganda.

But the recommendation was rubbished by the Parliament Commission chaired by the Speaker of Parliament 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 Honors Degree in Mass Communication, Communication Studies, Journalism, or Arts with Communication and Public Relations studied as subjects, from a recognized University plus a Masters’ 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 Masters 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 staffs Okumu Dison, Okello Obabaru, and Masereka Benson.

The committee identified former Member of Parliament Onapito Ekomoloit, East African Bureau Chief Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi, Daniel Kalinaki, and 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 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 Chris Obore Ariko should 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 by the Public Service Commission.

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 the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.

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