It all started with a phone call from State House. It ended with a few heads on the chopping board.
Sources at the Electoral Commission have told The Nile Post that a phone call from President Museveni demanding for the sacking of several workers could have ended the careers of Sam Rwakoojo, the long serving EC secretary and Jotham Taremwa, the influential spokesperson.
While the exact reasons for their ouster is not clear multiple sources told us that it could be related to issues to do with procurement, a process that had been tightly controlled by the duo.
The 2021 election, like all elections, represents an opportunity for many people at the EC, which is at the centre of it all, to hit big.
The 2021 general elections are expected to cost the EC over Shs 850 billion. This is in addition to other funds that have been spent by the EC over the past five years.
But the government also spends billions on elections in its other agencies like security. A huge chunk of the money allocated to the EC goes to the printing of ballot papers outside the country.
It has been alleged before that some corrupt EC officials connive with foreign suppliers of electoral materials to inflate the prices and collect kickbacks from the deals.
War on corruption?
President Museveni last month ordered the exit of several senior staff at Uganda Revenue Authority suspected of involvement in dubious deals and he warned that he is going to sweep the corrupt out other government departments.
At URA none of the officials were “officially sacked”, they were told to resign.
Similarly, Museveni does not directly hire or sack the EC staff as this is the mandate of the commission.
Sources have told us that State House has now left it to the EC, to exit the affected staff as fast as possible.
We have been told that Rwakoojo’s contract had expired last year and was due for renewal. Museveni chose not to have it renewed.
Rwakoojo has been at the EC since 2001 after he lost the Lwemiyaga seat to Theodore Ssekikubo.
Taremwa joined the EC shortly before the 2011 polls. Previously he worked as public relations officer at Parliament.
Efforts to talk to the two were futile.
Jotham Taremwa of Electoral Commission (Photo by Francis Isaano)
Jotham Taremwa was spokesperson of the EC
Over the years, the two, sources said had become a very powerful force, directing matters and setting the agenda at the electoral body.
Yet the reconstitution of the EC in 2016 appeared to have pulled the rug from under their feet.
Sources within EC told us that Rwakoojo and Taremwa’s powers within the EC started to wane the moment Museveni appointed new commissioners in 2016.
Unlike the old commissioners whom the duo are said had control over, the new team led by Justice Simon Byabakama, presented a different preposition.
First, Byabakama was an unknown quantity.
His meteoric rise from a public prosecutor in 2005 to a High court judge in 2008 and finally to the Court of Appeal a year later only served to show that “he enjoyed considerable approval from the Fountain of Honour”.
Sources said it is this meteoric rise that scared some people at the EC who believed that he is very close to President Museveni and therefore his arrival left technocrats nervous because they did not know what instructions the new chair was coming with.
The fear then was that Byabakama could create his own power centre with Museveni’s ear.
With the impending exit of the powerful officers, sources have told us that a cloud of fear hangs over the EC.
The commissioners now have several options to exit the suspected fiddlers who are believed by intelligence to have fleeced government of billions in procurement scams.
To save the suspects the embarrassment, those whose contracts are nearing expiry may just not be granted renewal.
Those with still-running contracts may be ordered to resign, citing any reason they fancy. The more blatantly corrupt against whom evidence can be readily established can be summarily dismissed without fear of their seeking legal redress.
Yesterday it was URA. Today it is Electoral Commission. Ugandans wait to see which statutory body is next to see corrupt heads roll.