Last month in December while social media was buzzing with the news of the exceptional performance of Miss Uganda, Quiin Abenakyo during the Miss World contest, everyone in Uganda was making noise about the beauty queen – except Uganda Tourism Board (UTB).
UTB, the government agency mandated to promote Uganda and its tourism both locally and internationally, would definitely have taken interest in a global event where brand Uganda was shining. But it wasn’t.
The official UTB social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) were neither posting about Miss Uganda nor anything, raising suspicion.
When contacted regarding the issue at the time, the UTB CEO, Stephen Asiimwe said the silence on the agency’s social platforms was due to a dispute between UTB and a staffer who was previously running the social media pages.
Asiimwe told SoftPower News at the time that when the staffer left UTB, he refused to handover the logins for social media, but couldn’t state why.
“The matter is being investigated,” Asiimwe said.
Whatever the bone of contention at UTB was, every Ugandan was teeming with pride of the spotlight that Abenakyo had placed their country in, but the agency they pay to do that job was silent. But that isn’t the only loss incurred by the taxpayer. There is no doubt that the country is losing as much as millions of dollars that could be drawn from potential visitors whose decision to visit Uganda could be determined by a tweet or post from UTB.
Todate, the social media accounts for UTB are domant. Their Twitter was last updated in September, Instagram in August and Facebook in October of 2018.
Now it emerges that Patrick Kateregga, the former UTB staffer who was in charge of the digital platforms accuses the Management at the agency of not honoring their obligations regarding his salary. He claims he has not been paid outstanding arrears.
He says he seized working with UTB in October 2018 along with more than 20 other employees.
But he says that when they were laid off, their outstanding salaries were not cleared as the labour laws demand.
“First, you can not advertise employees’ jobs who are on contract before appraising them, as all contracts stated, and when you do terminate their contracts, you automatically choose the obligation of paying all their dues before you let them go. At least that’s what basic management is about,” Kateregga wrote in a lengthy post recently.
He says that staffers have suffered “peanut pay” along with “gross and intentional salary disparities”, “return of funds to the treasury without facilitating planned activities” as well as “short term contracts”.
“None of the above was ever rectified, and to make matters worse, our lawfully entitled gratuity was cut from 25% to 10% without our consent, despite continuous cries to rectify this gross mismanagement error”.
Prior to his departure, he claims, he wrote to the CEO and HR inquiring on his status at UTB but none of them replied.
Later on October 5 2018, he received a letter that his contract which was due to expire on September 30 would not be renewed. He was given 7 days to handover, “without clarifying on outcomes from my interviews and how my payments in lieu and gratuity would be cleared”.
On October 11, he raised my issues with the Board of Directors, through the Chairman but until now, he has never received any response on the same.
He says the contention stems from the massive recruitment that happened at the agency last year. This recruitment, he says, was done before contracts of the would-be affected staff had expired. This was also done without appraisal of the staff occupying the advertised positions, contrary to clauses in their contracts.
“By the end of June 2018, many were terminated without either being interviewed or their payments in lieu being cleared. My case was deferred because I was out of the country on official duties”.
Kateregga says that on return to Uganda on June 29, he wrote to the CEO and HR inquiring on a job application he had tendered in to maintain his position.
On 2nd July 2018, all other staff jobs were publicly advertised but his did not appear any where, so he continued executing his normal duties.
“After a month, I was called for the would have been internal interviews and up to now, I have never been told what came out of those interviews,” Kateregga said.
He has threatened to expose the “rot” that has been at UTB over the recent years, including “gross misuse of funds” and why the agency is getting a new chief executive, should the UTB Board and Management insist on intimidating him with police rather than resolve the dispute amicably.
In his words, UTB has been poorly managed by selfish, greedy, self-centred, short-sighted & grossly incompetent managers.
He accuses UTB of attempting through some agents to hack into his accounts so as to secure access to the agency’s social media platforms, but with no success.
“Since my departure UTB is yet to find the right person to execute my duties….. The national tourism website which we were still working on to upgrade has thus been off for almost a month now, since its codes expired a few months after I had left”.
SoftPower News tried to reach both the outgoing UTB chief executive, Asiimwe and his deputy, John Ssempebwa to get their response to the allegations, but the former could not pick while the latter’s known telephone contact was unavailable.