KAMPALA: The deputy Inspector General of Government (IGG), George Bamugemereire, has directed the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) board of directors and executive director to immediately fix the mess related to illegally recruiting staff to fill various positions.
Justice Bamugemereire in his report of investigations of illegal recruitment at NAADS which was issued today directed the board to relieve Henry Aggrey Bagiire, the chairperson, the role of chairperson of finance and administration committee to avoid a situation of conflict of interest.
He also directed the board to immediately advertise the positions of executive assistant and office messenger, internally so they can be filled on the “principles of meritocracy, transparency, fairness and competition as provided for in the NAADS Human Resource Policies and Procedures Manual.”
The ombudsman’s recommendations are premised on an investigation which followed complaints that in filling out the positions in the lean structure, the Board advertised the jobs starting with Zonal officers whom it successfully filled in a transparent and fair manner.
However, when the Board in the same spirit advertised, shortlisted and commenced the interviews for the shortlisted candidates for the NAADS Secretariat positions, the Minister of Agriculture Tress Bucyanayandi, abruptly halted the process and instead issued new guidelines to the Board which were to be applied in respect of appointment of specified individuals to certain positions.
It was also alleged that the Board kept on shifting its position as regards the candidate profile and qualification requirements for some positions in the new lean structure advertised in a manner that was meant to favor some candidates that applied for the positions.
The complaints were received following a Cabinet directive that the NAADS) secretariat be restructured into a lean organization with a single spine structure, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries together with NAADS Board restructured the organization but that the process of filling vacancies at the new NAADS Secretariat was marred with irregularities.
In the report, Justice Bamugemereire, said investigations revealed that the board delegated its Finance and Administration Committee which is also ironically chaired by the board chairman Mr Bagiire to come up with job descriptions for the newly approved positions following the restructuring.
The investigations also revealed cases of influence peddling of the recruitment process to fill job positions.
The IGG also directed the NAADS executive director Dr. Samuel Mugasi to “ensure that all Board records are securely kept and further ensure that all Board and Board committee minutes are approved and signed.”
See full report below
2nd April 2015
NAADS Board of Directors
REPORT ON INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE ALLEGED IRREGULARITIES IN THE FILLING OF POSITIONS AT THE RESTRUCTURED SECRETARIAT OF THE NATIONAL AGRICULURAL ADVISORY SERVICES ORGANIZATION
The Inspectorate of Government received a complaint wherein it was alleged that following a Cabinet directive that the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Secretariat be restructured into a lean organization with a single spine structure, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) together with NAADS Board of Directors (hereafter referred to as “the Board”) restructured the organization but that the process of filling vacancies at the new NAADS Secretariat was marred with irregularities.
In particular, it was alleged that:
- a) In filling out the positions in the lean structure, the Board advertised the jobs starting with Zonal officers which it successfully filled in a transparent and fair manner. However, when the Board in the same spirit advertised, shortlisted and commenced the interviews for the shortlisted candidates for the NAADS Secretariat positions, the Hon. Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (hereafter referred to as ‘the Minister’) abruptly halted the process and instead issued new guidelines to the Board which were to be applied in respect of appointment of specified individuals to certain positions; and that,
- b) The Board kept on shifting its position as regards the candidate profile and qualification requirements for some positions in the new lean structure advertised in a manner that was meant to favor some candidates that applied for the positions.
The Inspectorate of Government investigated the complaint and made the following observations and findings:-
- Cabinet under its minute No. 186(CT 2014)passed a resolution to restructure the NAADS Secretariat into a single spine lean structure of about 33 members of staff. The MAAIF was mandated to help implement this resolution and through a series of meetings proposed the reduced structure. It was noted that for all intents and purposes, Cabinet’s intention was to restructure the entire NAADS Organization. All correspondence and documents examined referred to a restructuring of the Secretariat and not a mere downsizing of numbers of members of staff as alluded to by some stakeholders.
- The NAADS Board is among other things, mandated with the recruitment, selection and appointment of staff but the Minister can also, in exercise of his powers accorded to him by the NAADS Act, direct the Board in execution of its functions. The NAADS Board set up a robust mechanism to select suitable candidates to fill the vacancies in the restructured organization through internal adverts and interviews using a transparent, fair and competitive process as provided for under Section 2.1(a)(ii) of the NAADS Human Resource Policies and Procedures Manual. In general, the proposed process was accepted and respected by all stakeholders and was indeed applied to the recruitment of Zonal Development Officers.
- Whereas the advert for the Zonal Development Officers called for prospective candidates to have a minimum of five years experience in agriculture related service in government or its equivalent from a reputable organization, the parameter used in the selection process was altered to reflect possession of working experience in agriculture extension obtained after attaining the degree in the relevant discipline. This in effect was a new criterion on selection that was not communicated to applicants in the advertisement. The Board Committee therefore fell short on the principle of transparency and fairness. Indeed the Board’s unilateral change of candidate specification so late in the day was perceived by applicants as being tantamount to a change of “goal posts” which no doubt dents the credibility of a recruitment process.
- Additionally, the resourcing process had been clearly explained to interested candidates and an expectation had been built among the candidates that a transparent process would be followed to fill all vacancies.Therefore, the sudden intervention by the Minister which halted the transparent recruitment process was a huge setback to the otherwise smooth resourcing process. It understandably generated suspicion that senior Government officials were attempting to ring-fence positions for their friends.
- Irrespective of the principles on staff selection mentioned above, the Board determined not to put up the positions of the Executive Director (ED) – held by Dr. Mugasi, Executive Assistant (held by Ms Nkojo) and Office Messenger (held by Mr. Musoke) for competition to ensure continuity and smooth operations.While this explicable in respect of the position of the ED who was to steer the restructuring process, it is not justifiable for the junior cadre positions of Executive Assistant and Office messenger hence the need to put up these two positions for competition in the spirit of transparency.
- The Board delegated its Finance and Administration Committee which is also ironically chaired by the Board Chairman Hon. Bagiire to come up with job descriptions for the newly approved positions following the restructuring, advertising, short listing, interviewing and selection of staff for appointment. However, in chairing the Board that reviews and approves reports of the Finance and Administration Committee that he also chairs, Hon. Bagiire may put himself in a position of conflict of interest which contravenes the law. It is imperative to note that good corporate governance dictates that a Board Chairperson should not head any committee of the Board. Hon. Bagiire appreciated this observation when the matter was put to him and promised to put this to the Board and have it rectified.
- Indeed the Minister may have been justified to provide guidance to the Board in respect of the Board’s decision to introduce new criteria for selection of a Financial Controller as the Board was clearly in violation of principles of Natural Justice. However, having had doubts about the qualifications of the Financial Controller, the Board should have either consulted the Ministry of Public Service for guidance about the appropriate job profile of a Financial Controller at the commencement of the recruitment process or stuck to the job description at the commencement of the resourcing process. Understandably the introduction of a new selection criterion for that role along the way justifiably triggered alarm bells in the minds of persons concerned about the incumbent’s prospects for re-appointment and raised fears of perceived witch-hunt of the incumbent.
- Whereas the Minister was justified to intervene in the recruitment process following complaints of witch-hunt against a candidate for the Financial Controller role, the selection guidelines he introduced were far less transparent than the problem he sought to solve. Ideally, the Minister should have advised the Board to either seek guidance about the appropriate academic qualifications for Financial Controllers from theMinistry of Public Service or directed the Board to stick to the criteria agreed upon at the commencement of the recruitment process. But as it were, the Minister’s directive to the Board to appoint individuals to roles in accordance with the new guidelines in effect ring-fenced a number of senior positions probably to the disadvantage of better qualified junior staff and thus rendered the entire restructuring process a discredited exercise.
- We established that a Masters degree was merely an added advantage for candidates aspiring to perform roles at a similar level and it was therefore improper for the Board to treat the Financial Controller job differently from other position at the same job level. It indeed created the perception that a certain individual was being targeted to be rendered ineligible to compete for the job.
10.We find that so much water has already flowed under the proverbial bridge but the situation is not entirely hopeless since no appointments have been made as yet. We find that the integrity of the resourcing process can be salvaged by rolling back the recruitment process and picking up the resourcing from the point just before the Minister’s intervention. Therefore we recommend that the resourcing strategy adopted by the Board do proceed as earlier planned.
11.It is observed that there is evidently poor record keeping at the NAADS Secretariat as it was found quite cumbersome to retrieve records concerning even recent events. It is also noted that there is a habit of keeping unsigned Board and Committee minutes by the NAADS Secretariat. It is further observed that the ED is an ex-officio member of the Board who is also its Secretary. It is therefore the duty of Dr. Mugasi the ED to ensure that minutes of the Board are properly kept, which duty he was not performing with diligence.
In view of the findings and observations above, we recommend as follows:-
- The Board should consider relieving Hon. Henry Aggrey Bagiire who is its Chairperson of the role of Chairperson of the Finance and Administration Committee to avoid a situation of conflict of interest.
- The positions of Executive Assistant and Office Messenger should be internally advertised by the NAADS Board and filled following the principles of meritocracy, transparency, fairness and competition as provided for in the NAADS Human Resource Policies and Procedures Manual.
- The Board aligns the short listing criteria for the positions highlighted in the report with the job specifications laid out in the job advertisements.
- The resourcing strategy to fill the positions in the NAADS lean structure as adopted by the Board should proceed as earlier planned. If indeed the guidelines issued by the Hon. Minister MAAIF are critical to the functionality of NAADS, then the Board may include the relevant aspects of the guidelines in the selection criteria to be applied during the interview process.
- The Executive Director, Dr. Samuel Mugasi should ensure that all Board records are securely kept and further ensure that all Board and Board committee minutes are approved and signed.
A copy of the detailed report of the investigation is attached for your further information and implementation. Please give us an update of actions taken to implement the report within 60 days from the date of this report.
DEPUTY INSPECTOR GENERAL OF GOVERNMENT
c.c The Hon. Minister
Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries
c.c The Permanent Secretary
Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries
c.c The Executive Director, NAADS Secretariat