By our reporter
It is a public secret that Uganda’s diplomatic missions are in terrible state, run down with years of negligence, poor funding from the government as well as outright mismanagement by administrators of the embassies.
The spotlight is usually put on ambassadors, who are the head of missions, ignoring the small “gods” at embassies who act with impunity even with the little money that manage to go through to the missions.
This week, reports have emerged from the Ugandan Embassy in Algiers that the ambassador there, Alintuma Nsambu, is facing a daunting task of bringing his officers in order. Faced with unpaid up bills ranging from salaries, rent, water bills, electricity, telephone, internet and vehicle breakdown, the ambassador wondered what was happening.
Nsambu who served in Canada as High Commissioner without glitches, wrote several letters in Kampala seeking guidance on the matters without any response from the mother ministry of foreign affairs. According to the information sources at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ambassador chaired a finance committee at the embassy where he sought solutions from the team on how to resolve the problem. According the minutes, the committee resolved to visit Tunis to enter negotiations with the bank.
Unfortunately, two of his officers didn’t turn up at the airport on the day of travel. The rest of the team however went ahead with the trip which would turn out to be eye opening.
The bank notified the ambassador that two of his officers had in the past withdrawn money without the official seal of the ambassador. The money withdrawn never reached the embassy, which at the time had been disconnected from the internet. Internet is a key service to the embassies, since most communications and services are done via the internet.
However, two officials; Fredrick George Tushabe the accounting officer, and Samson Kamugendera the financial attaché had gone ahead and withdrawn money to pay themselves while the rest of the staff were starving. Since he is accountable to resources of the embassy Mr Nsambu was prompted to order a freeze on the accounts of Uganda’s embassy in Tunis until an investigation is done on how money on the embassy account has been used. He also directed Mr Tushabe to submit key document of the embassy as this process goes on.
To Nsambu’s dismay, Mr Tushabe responded to the ambassador in writing a memo which has been equated to undermining the powers of the head of mission. Tushabe said he was the accounting officer and no one else, and therefore cannot share any documents of the embassy with anyone. The ministry of foreign affairs has reacted by promising to send auditors to reveal the extent of financial impropriety.
The Algerian mission was formerly located in Libya, but moved to Algiers after war erupted which deposed the late Colonel Gadaffi. The Algeria mission now oversees Libya and Tunisia.
Nsambu replaced the long serving Libyan ambassador Moses Ssebunya, Tushabe on the other hand has served in Abu Dhabi and London in similar position, and according to our sources, he messed up ambassadors in those countries. Whereas Prof Kiwanuka Ssemakula resigned from Abu Dhabi after his relationship with Tushabe went soured, in London, High Commissioner Prof George Kirya’s career nosedived after reports that the embassy was selling the embassy building in London ended up in Parliament, but Kirya faced the music alone.
This website understands that the Algeria mission is yet to open an account in Algeria since the laws governing opening bank accounts are stringent. It is understood that the officials of the embassy handling financial administration, have used that loophole to siphon millions of shillings, that at one moment, the accounting officer electronically transferred more than Euros140,000 to an unknown receipt.
Whereas the embassy is in an embarrassing situation with no funds even to pay electricity and internet bills, the accounting officer as well as the finance attaché have been secretly paying themselves handsomely, yet tell colleagues at the embassy that there was no money on the account.
In the minutes of the finance committee, it is understood that the ambassador was tasked to go to the bank in Tunis with a couple of staff, to engage the bank. The finance attaché and accounting officer were due to travel with the ambassador but didn’t show up at the airport the next day, for reasons best known to them. The ambassador moved anyway with the remaining group, only to find there was some money remaining on the accounting amounting to Euros 26,000. The accounting officers had however transacted more than half a million euros, according to information at the Ministry of Foreign affairs.
Now the ministry plans to send auditors to Algiers to find out how finances disbursed by the government is spent by the mission.
This website understands that Ambassador Nsambu had written several memos to the ministry of Foreign of affairs explaining the dire need for resources at the embassy, although the ministry was silent until he made the decision to free the accounts.
The impropriety at the embassy started after Mr Denis Kalikola the former accounting officer left the mission and handed over to Mr Tushabe. When Kalikola left, Fredrick George Tushabe and Samson Kamugendera the financial attaché became signatories to the embassy accounts in Tunis. They have used this opportunity to pay themselves and spend money as they please, leaving the embassies in embarrassing starvation. Kamugendera, a former accounting officer in Fort Portal was posted to Algiers after facing financial queries.
Algeria Mission is increasingly becoming of great importance since bilateral agreements have placed the country as Uganda’s security ally.