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Queries as NAGRC board chairman orders controversial semen payment

The confusion at the government’s National Animal Genetic Resource Centre and Data Bank (NAGRC & DB) does not seem to be ending soon due to the intrigue amongst top leadership.

In a space of three years, the agency has had two different boards and three executive directors. This high turnover, according to a whistle-blower’s petition to the Inspectorate of Government, is a result of the overbearing approach of the board, which has made work extremely difficult for management to operate normally.

In the whistle-blower’s petition, he accuses Dr Johnson Nkuuhe, the board chairman, of desperately attempting to influence a dubious payment of Shs 1.4 billion to Kibubbu Agro Suppliers Ltd for the supply of animal semen.

Attached with the petition is a letter Nkuuhe wrote on June 23 requesting the Finance ministry to clear payment. This animal semen is a subject of longstanding controversy due to the flouting of procurement process and inflation of figures.

It was on the background of this controversial deal that Pius Wakabi Kasajja, the permanent secretary, ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), interdicted Dr Charles Lagu, the former executive director in May 2020.

Lagu and other NAGRC staff are facing corruption charges arising from the semen deal. Therefore, the whistle-blower argues that it is improper for Dr Nkuuhe to request for payment before investigations into the matter are over.

“He is usurping the powers of the NAGRC & DB management to try to force thought the payment,” reads part of the petition.

Keith Muhakanizi, the ministry of Finance permanent secretary, had earlier refused to pay Kibubbu Agro Suppliers when Lagu prompted him and this time round, he warned Nkuuhe of the flawed procurement process.

“Whereas we have no objection in clearing the payment, the onus is on you to ensure the payments are genuine,” he warns.

“Given the timelines for closure of the financial year, I propose NAGRC & DB opens a letter of credit and be disbursed after a thorough review of this procurement.”

Copied in Muhakanizi’s response is the State House Anti-corruption Unit, which is also investigating the same transaction.

“However, the State House Anti-corruption Unit has no interest in Dr Nkuuhe’s suspicious actions and I suspect there could be collusion,” reads the petition.

Meanwhile, the whistle-blower further accuses Dr Nkuuhe of promoting nepotism at NAGRC & DB by secretly fronting Peter Beine, an assistant commissioner at MAAIF, to take over as the substantive executive director in place of Dr Anthony Ntaate, the caretaker boss who was appointed recently by Vincent Ssempijja, the minister of Agriculture after approval of the board.

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