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Uganda Golf Club needs external probe to protect its integrity

In my golfing career spanning more than three decades, I have held various responsibilities such as deputy chairman of the Uganda Golf Club (UGC) and was onetime the chairperson of its disciplinary committee.

It was in 2010 when the management committee and its captain, Okello Ocero, enthusiastically recommended me to become a trustee of the club. Since then, I have been very active and assisting in proposals and dispute resolutions utilizing my legal and judicial experiences.

Of recent, however, I have become a target for self-seekers and opportunists who have made my role as a trustee untenable. So, in line with my convictions, I would like to share the troubles at UGC as well as offer recommendations for the once prestigious club to reform itself.

MISMANAGEMENT

Behind the glamour and elegance associated with UGC, there lies gross mismanagement, theft, conflict of interest and loss of millions of shillings caused by the owners and managers of the club who are heavily implicated in the commission of those offences.

Worse still, the club was shockingly in deficit to the tune of not less than Shs 900 million shillings and, for over a year, the trustees, management committee and staff were fiercely exchanging accusations and counter accusations as to who stole what and on whose instructions.

The chairman of the board of trustees, Dr Sam Zaramba, had in the 2016-2017 term disclosed to other trustees and the management committee the seriousness of mismanagement of money in the club. Other trustees are Okello Ocero, Dr Martin Aliker, Monica Ntege Azuba and myself.

Incidentally, there are the only two trustees who have been reported as directly involved in violation of the constitution and its rules.

They have both violated the constitution through conflicts of interest. Around May this year, the trustees unanimously resolved that complaints of the club’s mismanagement and indebtedness should be investigated by the club’s management committee which supervises and not manages the business of the club.

Some culprits claim day-to-day decisions and micro-management of the club are exclusively the responsibility of the club professional manager and his or her department in accordance with Article 29 of the club constitution.

However, greed and ignorance have combined to deny that professional to perform the duties and functions assigned to the office. The management committee and the captain of the club are exclusively responsible for the golf course and its maintenance as well as running the game.

For this, they must budget for and utilize an annual sum called imprest. The same conditions apply to the professional manager who also is only authorized to spend money allowed in his imprest.

The great deal of the mess in the club has been caused by numerous infringements on the constitution and misconceptions about the distinct different roles played by the management committee and professional manager respectively.

For instance, the constitution provides that the decisions of the board bind the management committee. Another provision provides that board meetings are to be called by the board secretary in consultation with chairman of the board.

But during the current crisis, meetings have been called by Dr Zaramba or his deputy Okello Ocero oblivious to the club’s constitution and rules.

DOUBLE STANDARDS

The probe committee was set up to investigate the problems at the club yet in 2008, there was an excellent and commendable report of a similar probe committee the members of which were Prof Turyamuhika, Dr Aliker and Mr Charles Kareba, among others.

That 2008 report is much superior and more detailed than the report of the 2017 committee. The recommendations of that well-balanced probe committee have never been implemented. It is, therefore, baffling why anyone today should be worshipping the report of a compromised and incompetent probe committee.

I briefly appeared before the 2017 probe committee under protest because of the way they had carefully planned to avoid their terms of reference and ambush me in a meeting attended by my accusers of impropriety.

Although I was present when we unanimously agreed on and adopted all those terms of reference, the probe committee didn’t even permit me to brief them in the five minutes they had indicated would be available to me. 

At the kangaroo court, we challenged members who falsely asserted that those terms were complied with by chairman. Okello Ocero told us to shut up. The only two issues on which the probe committee permitted me to respond to briefly were; why I had disclosed the club’s problems to the media and then read a letter apparently written by all my four colleagues falsely accusing me of being the main culprit and cause of the club’s problems.

As someone who has participated or chaired many probe committees and commissions of inquiry, both national and international, I am baffled why anyone should find it necessary to prevent me from contributing to an inquiry about Uganda Golf Club which I have served selflessly for nearly 10 years.

Incidentally, before Okello Ocero treacherously abandoned our cause of insisting on cleaning the club, he often held me as the most industrious trustee of the club and if I were to resign from the board as I once threatened to do, he would also resign or better cause a storm in the club to know why.

By the way, as of now, the club owes me a debt for the physical work I personally paid for. Moreover for all the years I have professionally served the club, I have never asked for a refund of the money for services I volunteered.

Dr Anthony Okullo, Prof Anthony Kerali and I unanimously proposed that the 2017 probe committee’s report should be totally rejected and the club should instead discuss the recommendations of Prof Turyamuhaki’s committee.

Our suggestion was contemptuously dismissed by the chairman of the meeting; instead, the meeting accepted the current probe’s so-called recommendation. This is evidence that everything was stage-managed.

SHOCKING REVELATIONS

About a year ago, the club had a land dispute with some people. The board and management consulted me about a suitable lawyer to represent us. I recommended a certain firm which agreed to represent the club and conduct for only Shs 13 million.

However, my advice was rejected in preference to the other trustees in the management, except the then chairman George Egadu, in preference to another lawyer who demanded instructions fees of Shs 60 million.

But when I continued protesting about this exorbitant demand, the club eventually paid about Shs 40 million to the lawyer and ‘other agents.’ Incidentally, the club never received any part of that money. The instructions fees and ‘other expenses’ consumed every shilling that the losing parties would have paid to the club.

Much of the resentment against me stem from the insistence on integrity, professionalism and accountability in the affairs of the club. For many years now, the club’s corrupt establishment prefers mediocrity to efficiency as exemplified by the dishonest suspension of a potential professional manager named Matilda Akol.

When I pointed out to Dr Zaramba that something should be done, he accused me of interfering in the affairs of the club. This is one of the hot items I personally brought to the attention of the 2017 probe committee.

RECOMMENDATION

Lastly, I reiterate the decision of those who aren’t satisfied with the manner in which UGC is managed to petition the appropriate government department to set up an external investigating body to protect the integrity and property of UGC which we members love, respect and wish to protect.

Finally, the Banyakitara have a saying that: if you want peace from red ants, do not disturb their marching column with a probe tree branch.

They also have another that if you caution your relative to avoid an embarrassing situation and he/she refuses, you join those who are laughing at him/her and laugh also.

We, therefore, hope that the government of Uganda will rescue UGC from condemnation and laughter by other sporting organisations and other people.

The author is a trustee of UGC.

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