Public Service boss Nakyobe leads probe as trade Ministry PS Geraldine Ssali, legal officer brawl

Geraldine Ssali serves as the Permanent Secretary in the Uganda Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Geraldine Ssali serves as the Permanent Secretary in the Uganda Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives (PHOTO/Courtesy)

KAMPALA – Lucy Nakyobe Mbonye, Head of Public Service, has directed her deputy, Dorothy Katwiremu, to resolve the issues surrounding the controversy at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, where Permanent Secretary Geraldine Ssali is in the spotlight.

According to the New Vision, Ms. Nakyobe has requested that the case in which Ms. Ssali is accused of assaulting and then summarily interdicting the ministry’s legal officer, Sandra Aneno Karen, be thoroughly investigated.

The brawl occurred last week, and according to the New Vision, Catherine Musingwire, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service, chastised Ms. Ssali for interdicting the officer without due process.
The action by the head of public service follows a letter from the Minister of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives, Francis Mwebesa, who asked her to intervene, accusing PS Ssali of creating a toxic working environment at the ministry due to her conduct.

Mwebesa claims in a letter dated April 9, 2024, seen by the Kampala Report, that Ssali’s “unprofessional conduct” is causing massive resignations at the ministry.

“Since taking office, she has forced the transfer of several officers from the Ministry, particularly the heads of Planning and Policy, Human Resources, Procurement, and Accounts. “The unhealthy working environment has prompted some officers to apply for early retirement,” the minister wrote.

Last weekend, Ms. Anena dragged Ssali to Kampala Central Police Station for slapping her, exposing a simmering crisis at the Trade Ministry.

The police are currently investigating reports that Geraldine Ssali assaulted Aneno.

The incident took place on April 5, 2024, on the third floor of the Ministry’s offices at Farmers’ House in Kampala.

Ssali subsequently arrested Aneno and accused her of “gross unbecoming behavior such as using abusive language against me, assaulting me, threatening me, throwing items at me, and insubordination, which is irregular for a public officer of your caliber.”

It all began on April 4, when Lydia Aliwonya, the head of Human Resources, informed Aneno that the legal department needed to relocate to make room for the new State Minister of Trade, General Wilson Mbadi.
Anena informed Aliwonya that she would be temporarily moving to join Julius Kasirye, whose office had some space.

Aliwonya did not object.

The following morning of April 5, Aneno had several meetings with the ministers before shifting to Kasirye’s office.

Later, Aneno approached the painters who were placing Mbadi’s furniture in the corridor and asked them to use her office instead.

Aneno claimed in her report to police that as soon as she occupied the new office, a visibly furious Ssali, who was followed closely by her armed male bodyguard, stormed the office, ordering the senior lawyer to vacate it in the next hour because she (Ssali) needed the office.

As Aneno was preparing to leave, the charged-up Ssali reportedly started screaming at her, asking why she was not answering.

“It’s at that point when the lawyer told Ssali that she had heard her orders and was moving out.

Immediately, Ssali told her bodyguard to throw the lawyer out. The armed man pounced on the lawyer roughly and dragged her towards the corridor. It’s at this point that Ssali hit the lawyer and started to throw out books, files, and even a flask that actually belonged to another officer.”

Staff had by now gathered in the corridors and witnessed this scandal, most of whom later recorded statements to the police.

At this point, the bodyguards of the new minister intervened to actually save Aneno from the manhandling by the armed bodyguard.

Aneno was taken to a small room and counseled to calm down.

Officials say Aneno’s woes started during the Parliamentary probe into the alleged financial misappropriation of supplementary funds by the PS for the financial year 2022–2022.

During the hearing, the Committee established that Shs 8bn for rent of new office premises was instead utilized for renovation of office premises for the Ministry at Farmer’s House, as opposed to the purpose for which the same Ministry had requested the supplementary.

The House committee also discovered that the draft contract for renovation works at Farmer’s House was witnessed by Mr. Mutegeki David (Legal Officer).

The Committee was astounded that there actually exists a head of legal services at MTIC, Sandra Aneno, who submitted to the Committee that the PS prefers the services of Mr. Mutegeki David, an officer.
This was evident during the hearings, where Mutegeki always interjected on issues that seemed alien to him.

In October 2023, the Secretary to the Treasury, Ramathan Ggoobi, suspended Ssali as the Ministry’s accounting officer on the recommendations of a Parliament inquiry into alleged acts of corruption at the Ministry.

Parliament had accused Ssali of failing to control the regularity and proper use of money appropriated to the vote for procurement of renovation works on offices used by the Ministry at Farmer’s House.
The House’s Trade Committee also accused Ssali of inflating the price of renovation works by Shs2 billion.

However, President Museveni ordered the reinstatement of Ssali as the accounting officer of the Ministry of Trade.


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