Despite the IT infrastructure, Uganda is still reeling back and forth from forces of corruption that are in no doubt hampering the would be robust ICT industry in East Africa…from nepotism, favoritism, power fights, mismanagement, greed, ICT in Uganda is yet to deliver, especially when it comes to helping the poor in Africa alleviate poverty,
diseases, and illiteracy… Current ICT Leadership in Uganda’s ICT ministry are so full of themselves that all they are concerned with are contracts for themselves and bogus middleman IT companies that would rake in profits to their bank accounts… The people of Uganda benefiting from ICT is still a dream…
What is really happening in the Technology ministry?
Richard Wanambwa |News | October 11, 2009
The Minister of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Aggrey Awori, has halted the process of procuring a firm to manage the National Data Transmission Backbone Infrastructure and E-Government Infrastructure (NBI/EGI) project.
According Mr Awori, the reasons for halting the process is based on the need for the involvement of National Information Technology Authority – Uganda (NITA-U).
“As you are aware, the National Information Technology Authority- Uganda (NITA-U) has been operationalised. The Board of Directors has been appointed and has already started carrying out their duties. The appointment of the Executive Director is being handled by the Board and the Minister. One of the key functions of NITA-U is to manage the government Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure including the NBI/EGI,” Mr Awori wrote to the ministry permanent secretary September 3.
He added “I am aware that the ministry has started the process of procuring a firm to manage the NBI/EGI. However, since NITA-U will be directly responsible for managing the NBI/EGI, it is essential that it participates in the process of procuring the said firm. Secondly, we need to rectify the damages that were caused on the optic fibre in Phase I in order to make NBI/EGI fully functional and in view of the above, I am asking you to halt the process of procuring a firm to manage the NBI/EGI on behalf of government until the two have been sorted out.”
However, Sunday Monitor, has learnt that Mr Awori on July 31 wrote to the manager Huawei Technologies confirming that his ministry had accepted Comtel Integrators Africa Limited, to be Microsoft partner in the NBI/EGI project .
“Further to our previous discussion and correspondence about Microsoft software for NBI/EGI, I wish to confirm that my ministry has accepted the nomination of Comtel Integrators Africa Limited to be the Microsoft partners in the NBI/EGI project, after the due diligence. You are authorised to start working with them expeditiously so that this project can be operational,” Awori wrote. But in choosing Comtel there are suspicions of conflict of interest because a senior manager at Comtel sits on the NITA-U board. Sources further allege that the ministry awarded this tender to Comtel in violation of government procurement guidelines that demand that such transactions be advertised.
Last week, this paper reported that there was a fight for senior jobs at NITA-U with Mr Ambrose Ruyooka, a commissioner in the ministry, being dropped from the board. But Mr Awori last week dismissed the rumours that he sacked Mr Ruyooka saying “There is no evidence to show that I sacked him apart from a letter I wrote to him discontinuing him from National Information Technology Board. The truth is that Mr Ruyooka was on two boards…”.
Following our story, the ministry appointed Mr Andrew Lutwama as an interim chief executive officer of the authority. Mr Edward Baliddawa, former chairman of the ICT committee in Parliament but now an ordinary member of the same committee expressed dismay at what is happening in Mr Awori’s domain.
“What is contained in the reports is disturbing and of great concern to all of us in the ICT fraternity, but more so to all of those colleagues who did unreservedly contribute to the process of the successful enactment of the NITA-U Act 2008” Mr Baliddawa’s email posted on I-network, a social networking forum for ICT specialists and which this paper saw on Tuesday. He further noted that “after considering all the contributions, the House passed a law establishing
NITA-U and gave specific guidelines as to the operationalisation of NITA. For example, the law is very specific on who should sit on the Board of NITA and how the Executive Director shall be chosen. The law specifies that among the 7 Board Members, the Ministry of ICT shall be represented by the Commissioner for IT.
When I read in the papers that Mr Ruyooka Ambrose had been appointed on the Board, my understanding was that he had been seconded on the Board on the basis that he was an Acting Commissioner for ICT in the Ministry. Membership on the board is on the portfolio he was holding and not as a person in the name of Ruyooka. I find it strange too; that the minister was never informed that Mr Ruyooka was on another Board although in the law this is not a basis for rejection.”
The composition of the new National Information Technology Authority (Nita) board members and the appointment of its top officials have raised eyebrows in the Information and Communication Technology ministry with some officials citing conflict of interest and favouritism, Sunday Monitor has learnt.
The fight for senior jobs in the new Authority has already claimed its first casualty with Mr Ambrose Ruyooka, a commissioner in the ministry, being dropped from the board.
ICT minister Aggrey Awori told this newspaper that he removed Mr Ruyooka from the Nita board because he is already sitting on the Uganda Institute and Communication Technology (UICU) board. However, it is suspected that Mr Ruyooka was dropped in order to make room for one Dr Williams Ddembe, a former consultant in the ministry.
It is said Dr Ddembe is a business partner of the chairman of Parliament’s committee on ICT Nathan Igeme Nabeta. Mr Nabeta’s committee exercises a direct oversight function over Awori’s ministry thereby rendering the choice of Dr Ddembe open to suspicions of conflict of interest.
But Mr Awori denies suggestions of anything underhand.
“There is no evidence to show that I sacked him (Ruyooka) apart from a letter I wrote to him discontinuing him from Nita. The truth is that Mr Ruyooka was on two boards; but for Dr Ddembe, he has not been appointed and we are going to advertise that job,” Mr Awori said in an interview.
Dr Ddembe and Mr Nabeta are business partners in a private ICT firm, Praxis Africa Limited. They reportedly established their interest through NBS Group Limited.
According to documents available at the Registrar of Companies, copies of which Sunday Monitor has obtained, the three signatories to Praxis Africa Limited are Dr Williams Ddembe, Mr Nathan Igeme Nabeta and Mr Richard Basiime Bashenyi.
However, it emerged that after Mr Bashenyi landed a consultancy with the ICT ministry, Mr Nabeta and Dr Ddembe separately formed another company called Praxis Limited without the knowledge of Mr Bashenyi to do business with the ministry. Ministry officials got suspicious of this turn in their relationship with the company when an invoice was delivered to them from Praxis Limited, and not Praxis Africa Limited.
“I got a letter from ICT (ministry) inquiring how I billed them on a different letterhead, but on checking further I found out that Indeed, it was different, I later on discovered that my colleagues had registered a company called Praxis Limited and were soliciting for work using our original company but getting payment on a different account,” Mr Basiime said on Tuesday.
Last week Mr Awori defended Mr Nabeta saying: “Nabeta has no influence in appointing Ddembe and Ddembe has not applied yet but he (Bashenyi) did substandard work for the ministry. Let him settle their differences with Nabeta and Ddembe.”
Sunday Monitor failed to get a comment from Mr Nabeta as he was reportedly on a working trip outside the country. However, Mr Basiime said; “I have instructed my lawyers to get a court injunction on the activities of Praxis including blocking Shs120 million from the Electoral Commission where they used my company.” When contacted for a comment yesterday, Dr Ddembe said Mr Bashenyi was difficult to work with. “I am not a shareholder of that company but that guy is very difficult because he failed to come to court but above all I am not part of Nita group,” Dr Ddembe said.