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Minister, PS row leaves health ministry divided

Minister Jane Ruth Aceng

The row between Ruth Aceng, the minister of health, and Asuman Lukwago, the permanent secretary, has deepened, sucking in employees.

Aceng accuses Lukwago of undermining her and not heeding her instructions, while the PS accuses the minister of interfering in his technical work. The dispute dates back a couple of years when Aceng served as director general, health services. In some meetings, the two would openly exchange words as staff looked on, bemused.

When Aceng was appointed minister in May, the dispute escalated. One of the points of contention between the two related to how to restructure the ministry with a view to doing away with at least 200 positions. Aceng pushed for this and instructed Lukwago to effect it, reasoning that it could save the ministry some money.

Lukwago, on the other hand, opposed the proposal, arguing that it would jeopardize some vital work in the ministry. The dispute has already come to the attention of President Museveni, who is torn between the two officials as he has a soft spot for both.

In one of the meetings with Museveni, sources said, Lukwago threatened to resign if the minister does not stop interfering in his work. The president talked him out of it. Some employees have characterised the feud as being between Balokole (born-again) and other religious groups (Aceng is born-again while Lukwago is Muslim).

While some staff have openly taken sides, others have chosen to tread cautiously, mindful of the consequences of being perceived to be too close to either Lukwago or Aceng. One of the most prominent employees to be sucked into this row is Ronald Ssegawa Gyagenda, the undersecretary.


Ssegawa is perceived as a loyalist to Aceng after he led the restructuring process that led to the erasure of 200 contract jobs. Now he finds himself under investigation by the Inspectorate of Government for possible conflict of interest, abuse of office and breach of the leadership code.

The official is accused of influencing the process of shortlisting firms in which he has interest. Ssegawa, according to our sources, contracted Buddu Broadcasting Services FM and Digida FM, radios in which he is listed as a director, to provide advertising services to the ministry.

Sources in the ministry said Ssegawa sanctioned the deals with the two radio stations while he acted as permanent secretary in August this year when his boss Asuman Lukwago was on leave.

However, records available indicate that this exercise was conducted two years ago, before he took office. Besides, Ssegawa says these radio stations have been providing media services to the ministry through competitive bidding since 2004. And the latest contracts, he adds, were awarded in February 2015, three months before he joined the ministry.

To compound matters, Ssegawa has also been linked to M.M Construction Ltd, a company that was suspended by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) in 2014 for issuing a forged income tax clearance certificate.

The construction firm, according to a PPDA notice attached to a whistleblower’s letter, was suspended effective September 30, 2014. Under PPDA regulations, other companies associated with Ssegawa are not supposed to engage in business with government during such suspension.

But Ssegawa, who says he is a victim of circumstances, has written to the IGG defending himself against these allegations. He says by the time M.M Construction was suspended in 2014, he had long relinquished his stake in the company.

“It is, therefore, inappropriate for PPDA to have involved my name in the activities of M.M Construction Company which were undertaken in 2014,” he writes in a letter dated September 28.

Attached to the letter is a certificate confirming transfer of shares on August 26, 2010.

“For PPDA to act irresponsibly and include my name in the activities of this company without giving me a hearing and making a totally wrong conclusion, I have instructed my lawyers to immediately take them to court,” Ssegawa said. 

Asked to comment on matters in the ministry, Lukwago declined but told us that Ssegawa has some questions to answer.

“You [must] choose to be either a public servant or a businessman. The law is clear,” Lukwago said.

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