The Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB) has distanced itself from accusations of incompetence and possible corruption it faced following the expulsions of Members of Parliament on grounds of lack of sufficient academic qualifications.
UNEB has been in the national spotlight over the past couple of days after three NRM MPs were given matching orders from Parliament by courts of law for lack of academic qualifications.
Many people were wondering how the MPs managed to secure UNEB’s stamp of approval that allowed them to convince electoral officials to get nominated.
It has now emerged that the losing MPs may not have presented UNEB’s certified documents. The first victim of UNEB’s holes was media proprietor Peter Ssematimba, who had been elected as the MP for Busiro South.
He was followed in quick succession by Isaac Mulindwa for Lugazi municipality, the state minister for Defence representing Oyam North Constituency, Shamim Watongola of Kamuli Municipality, Edward Ndawula Ssembatya Katikamu South, Igeme Nabeta Jinja Municipality, and Shamim Wetongola of Kamuli district. The list is expected to grow longer as more petitions await to be discharged in Court
According to Hamis Kaheru, the Spokesperson of UNEB, those MPs are suffering because they did not present the required certified ‘A’ Level documents from the examinations body.
“If you do research, you will find that all those MPs whose elections have been rejected, never presented O and A level documents from UNEB but rather their diplomas and degrees from other places,”said Kaheru.
In esence the exams body has shifted blame to the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) on whose shoulders lies the responsibility of approving academic papers of higher institutions of learning in this country
Prior to the Presidential and the Parliamentary election, the National Resistance Movement Electoral Commission headed by Dr. Tanga Odoi issued stringent rules which required Parliamentary candidates to present verified certificate from UNEB for both their O and A Level academic papers as well as from schools where they sat.
While justifying the requirement on a number of FM stations then, Tanga Odoi insisted it was aimed at saving his Party the embarrassment it suffered in the past when the elections of some of its members were challenged and ultimately defeated in courts of law.
To the extent that many current NRM MPs faithfully complied and subsequently scooped both the primaries and general elections without post election challenges, Tanga Odoi won no little plaudit as Kinkizi East Member of Parliament Chris Baryomunsi testifies.
“I had to forfeit my whole day and went to line up like anyone else until UNEB officials stamped them before I presented them to Tanga Odoi to qualify my candidature,” said Baryomunsi.
But the dramatic expulsion of MPs mostly from the ruling party has undermined the reputation of UNEB which had earlier been regarded as unassailable.
It is not clear yet as to how the now expelled MPs got their papers verified by UNEB or the Uganda National Council for Higher Education, but all the same Court has gone ahead to remove them from the house.
Makerere University Business School (MUBS) lecturer Ramathan Ggoobi argues that
“The concept of equivalence (to UNEB academic standards) should also be considered to in light of other achievements one has amassed over time as well as the contribution he or she has made towards human development,”
Government Spokesman and executive Director of the Uganda media center Ofono Opondo agrees with Ggoobi.
He observes that the A level certificate is one of Uganda’s most forged academic papers since it is hotly sought after by many rich people with intentions of running for elective posts including presidential, parliamentary and Local Council LC(5) candidates among others.
“There is no point setting a high academic qualification when at the end of the day a big fraction of candidates who must produce it give you a forged copy,” Opondo said.
Commenting directly about Ssematimba’s nullification, newly appointed Kampala Minister Beti Namisango Kamya also holds the view that papers alone cannot be sufficient qualification for holding office.
Kamya says of Ssematimba thus: “It is a great case to demonstrate how we are going to lose quality leaders for lack of the required academic qualifications regardless of their potential to make a contribution to their constituencies let alone the country.