PHOTO: When marathon was organised to raise UGX 5 billion to set up a rehabilitation centre for migrant workers
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OVER 100 licenced external labour companies that do recruitment have parted ways from older Association called Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA),
and formed a new one called External Labour Agencies of Uganda (ELAU) headed by Mwesigwa Tomson, accusing Chairman Baker Akatambira and Secretary General Winnie Catherine Banura of mismagement of funds, corruption and abuse of office.
ELAU is now questioning how leaders in UAERA obtained Certificates of Good Conduct from Interpol saying they are not supposed to even be members of the Association since they are on record as criminals.
ELAU members who included Nyakwera Nadia and Milton Omurwok told this investigative online news website how they can no longer work under UAERA leaders who have totally failed to protect and observe the welfare of migrant workers. Due to vulnerability and the surging levels of unemployment in the country, Ugandans especially the youth, have opted to leave the country in search of better-paying jobs.
For starters, UAERA is an umbrella body incorporated in 2013 with an aim of bringing together all licenced labour export companies as a coalition to advocate for better operations of its members.
The Association initially started Thirteen (13) out of the Forty (40) registered companies at the time and grew its membership to Two Hundred Seventy (270) members out of Three Hundred and forty (340) licenced external labour recruitment companies that are registered and supervised by the ministry of Gender, labour and social development.
In a letter to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social development (MoGLSD), external labour companies which formed new Association ELAU said, they were fed up of UAERA leaders faulting them of not being bothered about the welfare principle of the migrant workers and they were more even concerned and interested in how best they can ripple off these migrant workers which saw them getting in very dubious deals which are against the articles the Association.
The letter to MoGLSD reads, “To UAERA, it was not as in how best do i help the migrant workers but rather it was how best do i ripple off the migrant worker.”
“So as Members of UAERA, when we realised this act, we were not happy, and we thought we could bring sanity and order to this sector. Whereby, we had to. So, what we did as Members of UAERA, we demanded that we should have an explanation over the same upon getting proof of the involvement in acts that contradict the articles of the association.” Reads a letter by external labour companies which later broke away from UAERA.
ELAU says, UAERA chairman and the secretary general were directly involved in dubious deals which in return affect migrant workers, they decided to part ways.
Under the External recruitment regulations, ELAU told Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, a person with criminal record is not allowed to own or even be involved in management of affairs of a recruitment firm.
Their letter says, “The Chairman Baker Akatambira, for example is criminal convict and therefore barred from occupying any public office. He was convicted by Anti Corruption Court on a criminal offence in Uganda vs Akantambira Baker, Criminal case number 0089/2014 on 24/9/2014. The record of this matter is available for the public to confirm.” ELAU reasoned that they couldnt continue being under office occupied by people with criminal record.
Member companies in the new Association believes that UAERA failed to fulfill their mandate, instead the association is ful of corruption and abuse of office, Mismanagement of Association funds, human trafficking allegations against members, denial of freedom of expression of member, among others .
HERE IS WHY 100 CAMPANIES FORMED ELAU
● Protect and observe the welfare of migrant workers
● Regulate and ensure strict adherence to the code of conduct laws, regulations and giidelines set by the ministry of Labour.
● Promote the collective business interests of members while protecting the best interest of our customers and migrant workers.
● Ensure transparency, build confidence in the public and make the business attractive and sustainable.
● Review the concerns of UAERA members and act on their behalf in the persuit of solutions to problems related to recruitment.
● Promote the postive image of the association and its members and engage with the ministry on issues of common interest to the members and association.
Break away companies say, UAERA leaders who were supposed to be a mirror of the association, instead became agents of foreigners, “An act which caused more suffering of our boys and girls following the increasing cash flow in the association, the leadership of UEARA deviated from the objectives and interests of the association and ventured into promoting and working towards achieving their individual interests and abusing their offices.”
The leadership failure to improve the sector resulted into members’ total disregard of the sector rules and engaging in illegal business that resulted into deterioration of working conditions of the migrant workers and greatly affected the business and image of the country not only in Africa but also in the entire world.
GRIEVANCES WHICH RESULTED INTO BREAK AWAY OF ELAU AS TOLD TO MINISTRY OF LABOUR
Corruption and Abuse of Office
The Association leadership lost grip of traits of leaders and focussed on satisfying themselves as individuals at the expense of the members. They engaged in extortion of funds and using their positions to benefit themselves and establishing cartels to foster theit objects and torment those who criticize their behaviours.
For example; Exorting members by requiring them to pay exhorbitant fees on Yellow fever clearances.
The leadership headed by the Chairman Mr. Baker Akantambira and the Secretary General Winnie Cstherine Banura were allegedly involved in systematic extortion and racketeering by creation of a monopoly company ARLHU that extorts and controls providers of yellow fever vaccination. This saw the cost of yellow fever vaccination cards increase from UGX 40,000 (Forty Thousand shillings) and UGX 60,000 (Sixty Thousand Shillings) to UGX 80,000 (Eighty Thousand Shillings) and UGX 120,000 (One hundred twenty thousand shillings) respectively. They further downsized the number of clinics offering the size to 16, accredited to carry out the vaccination.
Mismanagement of Association Funds
UAERA activities are usually funded by members’ money. This money is acquired from membership fees, subscription, donations, Budget support from members and other sources. It is meant for supporting the secretariat and paying for running expenses such as rent, salaries and travel costs, etc. Poor management practices resulted in deplation of members’ funds, channeling funds away from planned activities and operating budgets that were approved by members.
UAERA leaders completely refused to provide books of accounts to its members to be able to know how the monies collected are spent however they continue to demand money from members and also go ahead to email them exaggereted invoices to fund the association.
UAERA liabilities have been growing over the years from 800 Million in 2020 to 1.2 Bn in the year 2022 despite members’ contribution of funds to offset the liabilities. This is a derivative of the Mismanagement of members’ funds associated with the misuse and potential loss of funds which raises questions about the integrity of the leaders in charge of the funds. Misappropriation constitutes a deliberate act of the misuse of money.
The UAERA leadership has largely engaged itself in the mismagement of member funds paid to the association whereby, at one-point month, the landlord locked the premises of UAERA for non-payment of rent. This was very embarrassing to the sector and members who contribute generously a fee of two million five hundred thousand shillings to the association UGX 2,500,000/= (Two Million and Five Hundred Thousand Shillings) This misuse of funds is clearly brought out in the auditor’s report.
Human Trafficking Allegations Against Members
The Chairman, Secretary General and their cartel after successfully imposing 20,000/= on every Ugandan engaged in yet another risky business of human trafficking. They wanted to introduce another desk at the international airport in the disguise of curbing human trafficking which would require every traveller to pay 30 dollars for monitoring.
UAERA leaders lied to different labour export companies that AEHLU team found traffickers using their license and also in possesssion of yellow fever cards and asked them to file charges against the clinic owners and asked them to serve a copy to the Permanent Secretary MoGLSD and the OC Station Entebbe Aviation Police.
This saw their cartel release a number of documents on UAERA platform supporting their fraudulent move authored by the Presidential Advisor to the Diaspora Affairs Ambassador Walusimbi. Followed by other subsquent letters to justify their creation of their sinister motives which plan was countered by the respective Doctors through their Association, Yellow Fever Accredited Facilities Association filed a petition against the Chairman and the Secretary General respectively in Anti-corruption Court.
Despite the fact that all members pay equal contribution to the Association, the leadership is consolidated among a small group of those who started thd Association. They continue to use their power to keep other members with limited rights and mandate.
Denial of Freedom of Expression to members
Article 29 (1) (a) of the Constitution guarantees Freedom of Expression. However, the leadership of UAERA does not allow its members to freely express themselves whereby, the Vice Chairman of UAERA Bogere Ibrahim on 17th January 2023 wrote to all members instructing them to desist from making any comments about the yellow fever saga against the Chairman and Secretary General. And those who made an attempt to, were immediately ejected from the UAERA official platform an act that contravenes the provisions of freedom of expression.
Lack of corporate governance
An Association like UAERA is required to exhibit high moral aspects of corporate governance and implement all the tenets of a good board. This would account for transparency, independence, acciuntability and pay attention to risk aversion in the company.
Instead of attending to the demands of the day, our board has damaged the Association internally and potentially caused external negative publicity. The board state shows lack of confidentiality, conflicting agendas, lack of order, lack of respect for others, promotes a hostile environment, creates secret meetings, foster personal agendas, has a lack of trust, and creating an environment of dominating members plus non participating members.
The board only serve to rubber stamp what some Associations personalities want and acts as a cheerleader. The board micromanaged the affairs of the secretariat by erroneously assuming key management functions and only uphold the chief executive as a manager of individual agenda with no power to make independent decisions. The board runs fully thd affairs of the secretariat including all the funds.
The board works in a balkanized fashin, and concerned with only finances and not holistic operations. They do not regularly assess their performance and embody professional standards. The board has been reluctant to discuss strategy, inability to deal with disruptive behaviour by the Chairman and Secretary General a structure that creates confusion.
Wait for Part II of the story!
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