Umeme shareholders have rejected ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development permanent secretary Pius Bigirimana as one of its board of directors.
The shareholders, at their annual general meeting held at Sheraton Kampala hotel voted by a simple majority against the inclusion of Bigirimana on the board for the next one year.
Bigirimana had been nominated by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) as a non-executive director of Umeme. NSSF is the biggest shareholder in Umeme and is partly under the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Other nominees included Anthony March, Andrew Buglass, Stephen Emasu and Riccardo Ridolfi. After the nominees presented their credentials, they went out to allow for a vote, after some shareholders refused to endorse them without a vote. After a simple vote, the shareholders accepted all other nominees except Bigirimana.
They now join the board led by Patrick Bitature with members Gerald Sendaula, Florence Namatta Mawejje, Pieter Adriaan Falling, Selestino Babungi, the managing director, and Florence Nakimbugwe Nsubuga. Directors who resigned from the board are Charles Chapman, a founding management director of Umeme, Stuart David Michael Grylls, Christopher Nicholson and Adrian Mucalov.
A source that attended the meeting told URN that the shareholders rejected Bigirimana because they were uneasy about his tainted image over alleged corrupt practices. When URN arrived at the venue of the closed meeting, Bigirimana was moving out, apparently soon after being rejected.
Commenting on the rejection of Bigirimana at a press conference on the sidelines of the meeting, Bitature said it was the voice of the shareholders who have the powers to appoint the directors. Bitature said some shareholders opposed the nomination of Bigirimana but declined to divulge the reasons.
He said if NSSF, which appointed Bigirimana, if aggrieved it can still demand for a poll, by virtue of its shareholding power. Meanwhile, the shareholders approved a dividend of Shs 7.5 per share, and Umeme will role out Shs 12 billion to its shareholders.
In 2014, Bigirimana launched an anti-corruption book, Corruption; A Tale of Two Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing but was accused by legislators and some members of civil society of failing to take responsibility when over Shs 50 billion of donor money meant for Karamoja and post-war reconstruction of northern Uganda was stolen under his watch at the Office of Prime Minister.
Last week, Bigirimana also came under scrutiny before the land probe commission after he reportedly requested and received Shs 504 million from the Land Fund in 2016 for 50.5 acres of land on plot 5 Bulemeezi, block 103 that had been encroached on by squatters despite not qualifying for the compensation.
"Because you knew it was not a normal transaction, you knew Mr Bigirimana that you did not qualify why didn’t you return that money to government. We know you as a corruption free man, zero corruption. That is the concept that you [portray] but am a bit out for whether you stay in honour of that in view of these transactions that you have made", said land probe commissioner Robert Ssebunya.
The commission's lead counsel Ebert Byenkya said that Bigirimana's documentation is covered in inconsistencies and that he did not qualify for compensation. According to Byenkya, the first registration dated May 14, 2004, was in the name of Joseph Nsubuga, the administrator of the late Nsubuga and the second registration of Fenekansi Kalyesubula strangely captured for a previous date of May 13, 2004. Bigirimana's registration on the land title is April 19, 2008.
Bigirimana told the commission that he never paid attention to the dates, triggering questions on the intent of the purchase of the said land and a debate on how government officials are conniving to swindle resources set aside for the common man. Bigirimana pleaded that he never got to know that he did not qualify for the compensation but if the commission thinks he did not qualify, he is ready to follow their recommendation.
Recently, in an interview with CBS radio after being ordered to vacate Nommo gallery, Security minister Gen Elly Tumwiine branded Bigirimana and secretary to the treasury in ministry of Finance, Keith Muhakanizi as "thieves".
“Both Pius Bigirimana and Keith Muhakanizi are thieves, I told them point blank in their faces, they are the thieves in prime minister’s, they are accounting officers according to section 55 of the finance act, if you lose money, you are held responsible,” Gen Tumwine said.
Bigirimana's Gender ministry had demanded that Tumwiine starts paying rent for using Nommo gallery but Tumwiine argued, saying the gallery was given to the artists by then President Milton Obote and that its not government property.