A long-running contest over top jobs and resources at the ministry of Health will be decided in the High court where a lawsuit filed by a senior official accuses the permanent secretary and minister of orchestrating a conspiracy against him.
Until recently, Prof Anthony Mbonye was acting director general of Health Services (DGHS). His formal application to be appointed as the substantive officer in that position has, however, run into heavy head winds.
According to Mbonye, Health minister Dr Ruth Aceng and her permanent secretary Dr Diana Atwine are behind the campaign to undermine his prospects.
He also hints at the possibility that a whistle-blower who complained about irregularities in the recruitment of 12 senior personnel, including the DGHS, to the Inspectorate of Government was encouraged by his enemies at the ministry.
The Inspectorate stopped the recruitment and mid-last month issued a report, effectively bumping Mbonye out of the coveted DGHS position.
Last Thursday, Mbonye filed his suit in the civil division of the High court challenging the decision by Atwine to drop him.
“When one reads the tenor of the entire impugned report by the IGG, it is evident that the whole purpose of carrying out the investigations was targeting me personally and actuated by the desire to exclude me from the recruitment process for the position of the DGHS, in which I had not been found wanting for all that period I had been acting to date and to generally dent my hard-earned integrity and name in the public service,” Mbonye says.
In her September 11 report, IGG Irene Mulyagonja said Mbonye’s involvement in the recruitment process created a conflict of interest.
Mulyagonja found Mbonye guilty of conflict of interest for determining person specifications for the DGHS job allegedly to suit his interest.
But Mbonye hopes that Judge Henrietta Wolayo finds the “Report on systemic investigation into the recruitment of Director General Health Services and other senior positions at the Ministry of Health” rendered by Mulyagonja is “irrational, unfair, unjust, ultra vires, illegal, null and void to the extent that it adversely affects him.”
Mbonye lists his competencies, observing that between 2016 and 2017, he handled duties of the permanent secretary upon assignment by former PS Asuman Lukwago.
Mbonye states that he is the most senior director, having been a medical officer in 1996, assistant commissioner in 2002, commissioner for health in 2008 and subsequently, director, Health Services (Clinical-Community) in 2013.
“All the above positions are management and technical positions and it is my seniority as director that entitles me to act as director, General Health Services and handle the duties of the PS …”
In 2016, Mbonye says cabinet approved a new structure including 12 positions: Director General Health Services, Commissioner health Services (Community health), Commissioner Health Services (Planning & Policy) and Commissioner Health Services (Integrated Epidemiology and Surveillance), among others.
In August 2016, Lukwago was authorized to fill 255 vacant positions plus some of the above, and that in accordance with the law and in consultation with the department of human resource, Lukwago provided a draft of person specifications to the Health Services Commission (HSC) for approval.
Mbonye says the job advert also said an applicant must have at least 15 years of working experience, three of which must have been served at the level of commissioner in government or equivalent level in a reputable institution.
Between October 10 and 14, 2016, Mbonye says, as acting PS, he reviewed the job specifications and found them restrictive.
“I consulted with and got the approval of the substantive PS MOH Dr Asuman Lukwago before the revised specifications were submitted to the HSC in writing,” Mbonye says.
The letter submitting the revised specifications, dated October, 12, 2016, was copied to the head of public service and secretary to cabinet, the permanent secretary ministry of Public Service.
Mbonye swears that the revised specifications were advertised by the HSC without any influence from him. But in December 2016, while attending a meeting of senior managers, Mbonye says, Aceng excitedly announced that the IGG had halted the recruitment, noting that “those of us who expected that appointment should forget.”
He says he later learnt from the IGG report that six people applied for DGHS, including himself.
“… I was shortlisted by the HSC with only one other applicant and that the remaining two us could not be invited for interview because my detractors and enemies in the ministry of health, some of whom were on the short-listing panel, feared that I might pass the interview, which they detested,” Mbonye’s affidavit adds.
In order to bar him from attending the interview, Mbonye claims, his detractors then made the false complaint through a whistle-blower to the IGG.
He points out that the IGG falsely reported that he never informed Lukwago that he was interested in the DGHS job … yet it was correctly observed in the same report that Lukwago recommended him (Mbonye) for the position and endorsed his application form on October 31, 2016.
On Saturday, Atwine told The Observer she wasn’t in position to comment about the report by the IGG because she wasn’t the author. She, however, denied sacking Mbonye.
“I have not fired him. All we did was to assign him other duties within the ministry,” Atwine said, referring to the position of director of Health Services (Clinical and Community) to which Mbonye has been reassigned.