President Yoweri Museveni has directed the Minister for Finance to ensure that Pius Bigirimana, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development is appointed to the Umeme Board.
Museveni wrote a letter to Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija inquiring why Bigirimana who was nominated by National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to represent it on the Umeme Board of Directors was sidelined.
During the Umeme annual general meeting held in May, shareholders rejected Bigirimana on grounds, according to media reports, of corruption and tainted image.
A source (that attended the Umeme meeting) quoted by Uganda Radio Network URN said that the shareholders rejected Bigirimana “because they were uneasy about his tainted image over alleged corrupt practices”.
Patrick Bitature who chairs the Board told URN that it was the voice of the shareholders who have the powers to appoint the directors. He adds that some shareholders opposed the nomination of Bigirimana but declined to divulge the reasons.
In reaction to this, Bigirimana while speaking to one of the media outlets attributed his rejection to the work of “mafia”. He wondered why he would be sidelined when he has helped NSSF to grow.
Following Bigirimana’s rejection, representatives from the National Organization of Trade Unions during their meeting with President Museveni on July 5 this year, raised the concern.
In his letter to the Finance Minister, Museveni said the representatives “complained that Bigirimana who had been nominated by the NSSF as its representative on the Umeme Board was not confirmed” due to “unclear reasons”.
“The workers are therefore concerned that Umeme has intentionally left out their representative on the Board and have appealed to me to intervene in protecting their interests,” the President informed Minister Kasaija.
He reminded the Minister that NSSF is the majority shareholder in the electricity distribution company, Umeme. Museveni stated that since the Fund handles workers’ savings, their interests must be duly protected by a government representative, who in this case happens to be Pius Bigirimana.
“I am therefore directing you to urgently investigate their (trade unionists) complaint and ensure that Mr Pius Bigirimana is appointed to the Board of Umeme to safeguard workers’ interests,” Museveni ordered Kasaija.
Pius Bigirimana is not new to controversy particularly relating to graft. His name has previously been sucked into incidents of mismanagement of public funds including the Shs 21 billion (donor money meant for Karamoja and post-war reconstruction of northern Uganda) which in 2012 was stolen under his watch while he was still working at the Office of Prime Minister.
Just months ago, Bigirimana was summoned before the ongoing commission of inquiry into land matters where he faces allegations of receiving Shs 504 million from the Land Fund in 2016 for 50.5 acres of land yet he did not qualify for the compensation. The compensation was meant for squatters who had encroached on the said land.