Rural Electrification Agency continues paying heavy salaries to officials suspended over embezzlement 

The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Energy, Robert Kasande is on spot for blatantly lying to the public after claims that two officials implicated in a corruption scandal at the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) had been suspended and their contracts were withdrawn.

A Fortnight back, Kasande defended the line minister Mary Goretti Kitutu from allegations that she renewed contracts of two top Rural Electrification Agency (REA) who had been suspended by the board over abuse of office.

The board last year suspended Godfrey Werikhe, Deputy Executive Director, Technical Operations at REA and John Turyagyenda, the Head of Construction Department at REA) after an Inspector General of Government (IGG) report implicated them in fraud and corruption.

Following the implications, a letter from the Ministry of Finance Permanent Secretary Keith Muhakanizi decreed that Werikhe and Turyagyenda be asked to leave the Agency due to mismanagement issues raised against the two as well as their contracts had run out, a decree overlooked by the minister.

While the minister made the impression that she had done away with the two officials, several reports indicated she had renewed their contracts instead and they were still on salary.

This prompted Kasande to issue a statement distancing the minister from any wrongdoing.

"The public is hereby informed that the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development has not renewed the said contracts... The cabinet has decided to rationalize government agencies, commissions, authorities, and public expenditure. Among the institutions affected by the decision, the cabinet directed that Rural Electrification Agency should be mainstreamed as a department under the Ministry of Energy and Mineral development," Kasande said in a press release issued16th April 2021.

 "The Ministry is in the process of implementing these cabinet decisions and once the process is completed. All employees including the Head of Department will be recruited by the Public Service Commission in accordance with the Uganda Public Service standing order, 2010," he added.

However, according to internal sources, the two officials are still drawing salaries from the ministries despite the confirmation that their contracts were stopped.

According to payroll details for last month, Werikhe and Turyagyenda were paid Shs16,296,822 and Shs 12,356,386 respectively as net salary, which means they still receive all their full benefits as employees despite a standing suspension and contract expiry.

The salaries of the two were paid in their Standard Chartered Bank accounts 0100110442800 and 0101545432700 respectively.

A trusted source at REA indicates that the duo signed new contracts after the Minister had given an instruction to the Agency Accounting Officer Joan Mutiibwa to issue them.

"Apparently the minister has been issuing such letters for those she prefers to remain in employment at REA while others are sent packing. In her letter dated 22nd December 2020, the minister instructed Ms. Mutiibwa to issue a contract extension to Mr. Benon Bena (Manager Off-Grid Renewable Energy Development) and in the same letter, she asked her not to extend the one for Mr. Charles Lutwama. Bena has since continued to earn a contract salary," a source noted.

"Both the minister and the PS, Ministry of Energy has continued to usurp the powers of REA board and also use Ms. Mutiibwa and Patrick Kyakulagga (REA, Finance Manager), and several other managers to carry out whatever they desire to get from REA."

Kasande has been the Chairperson of REA board for the last three years and according to the source, he has been shielding Werikhe and Turyagyenda from the law hence keeping them in employment.

"Without Werikhe and Turyagyenda in REA, both the Minister and Mr. Kasande are working hard to see that REA becomes a department in the Energy Ministry so that they can directly manage it with its resources. It should be remembered that the Minister and Mr. Ksande have been at the center of fighting to ensure that the USD400 million(Loan and grant) World Bank-funded proposed electricity project is managed by the Energy Ministry instead of REA. As such the negotiations have stalled because of the continued fights which have further delayed the project meant to connect one million households, businesses, and institutions," the source narrated.

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