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Stock market top dog fights boot

Judy Obitre-Gama, the Head of Legal and Surveillance at the Uganda Securities Exchange, is contesting the manner in which she is being thrown out, describing the Governing Council’s decision not to renew her contract as “unlawful.”


Simon Rutega, the Chief Executive Officer of the USE, wrote to Obitre-Gama on October 12, 2009, letting her know of the Governing Council’s decision not to renew her contract. Her contract was eligible for renewal after every three years. Obitre-Gama’s contract expires on December 31, 2009. The USE has already advertised the job.

In her letter, dated October 27, 2009, Obitre-Gama points out that the Governing Council does not mention the reason why her contract has not been renewed. The members of the Governing Council are Samwiri Njuki, the chairman, Andrew Owiny, Onegi Obel, Samuel Njirwa, A.R. Kalan, Kenneth Kitariko, Mark Horwood, Rajesh Khana.

Obitre-Gama insists that she is still competent to continue serving the USE. “I note that the letter (from the USE CEO) does not disclose the reasons for termination of my contract, which is renewable every three years. You will also note that during the last three years my performance has been satisfactory,” writes Obitre-Gama.

“I therefore had a legitimate expectation that my contract would be renewed for a further period of three years. In my view the manner in which my contract was terminated was unlawful.”
Obitre-Gama goes on to point out that the Governing Council did not seek the opinion of its human resource committee about her performance, which she says is a requirement by USE rules.  

“According to the procedures and manuals of USE, the Governing Council is supposed to take such decisions on the basis of a recommendation made by its Human Resource Committee that would have considered the reasons for the termination or non-renewal, and recorded and taken into account the view points of the parties concerned.

The Committee would then present its report to the Governing Council for consideration. I am not aware of such a meeting having taken place nor was I given an opportunity to avail myself to the Committee for a hearing. According to the records that I have, the Committee has not presented such a report to the Governing Council.”

Basing on those arguments, Obitre-Gama points out that the credibility of the USE has been put at stake, and the Governing Council’s decision could send a wrong message to the market.
“Failure to follow procedures renders such decisions improper and unlawful,” she says.

 

“Furthermore, as an institution that is expected to be at the forefront of the drive for good corporate governance and best practice; and requires its listed entities to abide by the highest corporate standards and which is viewed as a beacon; the failure to observe these basic norms in human resources and general management is an indictment on the institutional practices of USE that if not nipped in the bud will set a precedent for the future.”

Obitre-Gama’s concerns about the conduct of the Governing Council come at a time when there is a global outcry about regulators of financial markets failing to adhere to the strict rules of corporate governance – which basically are premised on transparency and abiding by international management practices.

It is not clear how the market will react to Obitre-Gama’s exit, although the contents of her letter will very likely not change the mood among the investment community. Samwiri Njuki, the chairman at the Governing Council, declined to comment, saying he doesn’t engage the media in issues concerning the council.

Simon Rutega, however, noted that the Governing Council is a supreme body, and that they were not obliged to renew Obitre-Gama’s contract.

It is not clear why Obitre-Gama fell out of favour at the USE. While Obitre-Gama calls on the Governing Council to consider her arguments, it is unlikely that they will rescind their decision. While they might not have followed the right procedures in canceling Obitre-Gama’s contract, the Governing Council was simply under no obligation to renew it.
 
jeff@observer.ug

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