CRISIS OF JOB OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT THE UGANDA ROAD FUND

On 13th September 2019, at their request, the Patron of the Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers (UIPE), Eng. Hon Hilary Onek, received a delegation of prominent registered engineers and members of the 8M Information Forum at his office in Kampala. In the delegation were: Eng Dr Charles Wana Etyem, formally Chairman of the Engineers Registration Board (ERB); Eng Dr Frank Sebowa, formerly a Board member of ERB and a Past President (PP) of UIPE; Eng Livingstone Kangere, formerly a Vice Chairman of ERB and Honorary Secretary of UIPE; Eng Karuma Kagina, a Past President of UIPE; Eng Hans JWB Mwesigwa, formerly a Board member of ERB and a Past President of UIPE; and finally, Eng Peter Balimunsi, a current Board member of ERB and a Past President of UIPE.

The team deliberated on the position of the Executive Director (ED) of the Uganda Road Fund (URF) as advertised in the local media, which advert dismayed the engineering fraternity as one glaring example of watering down the important role of engineers in the leadership of predominantly engineering organizations.

The meeting noted the following:

  1. The URF established under the Uganda Road Fund Act 2008 is headed by an Executive Director recruited in accordance with Section 17 with the principal responsibility of implementing the Object of the Fund as stipulated in Section 6 of the Act. The Act spells out the Object as:
  2. To finance the routine and project maintenance of public roads in Uganda;
  3. To ensure that public roads are maintained at all times; and
  4. To advise the Minister, in consultation with the Minister responsible for Roads and the Minister responsible for Local Government on :
  5. The preparation and efficient, effective implementation of the annual road maintenance programme, and
  6. The control of overloading of vehicles on public roads.
  7. The current Executive Director was recruited in 2009 and has served the mandatory two terms, rendering him ineligible for consideration for another term. It is under this background that the URF Board initiated a recruitment process for a new ED. The Board has advertised for the position in the local media.
  8. The engineers’ attention was drawn to this advertisement which drastically differs from the previous one used by the pioneer Board in 2009. The table highlights only a few of the differences in the required qualifications and experience for candidates for the position of ED at URF, which left them flabbergasted:
No Qualifications and experience in the 2009 advert Qualifications and experience in the 2019 advert
a Master’s degree in civil engineering An Honours degree in engineering, finance, accounting and management or related numerate discipline
b (nothing mentioned) A Master’s degree in Finance, Management or related numerate discipline
c Registered civil engineer in Uganda Affiliation with relevant professional body is a MUST
d Postgraduate qualification in finance, business administration (nothing mentioned)
e Transport-sector experience with emphasis on the road sub-sector and a broad appreciation of road management and maintenance techniques and technologies (nothing mentioned)
f At least 15 years’ work experience, of which a minimum of 7 years must have been spent in the corporate sector At least 15 years’ relevant management work experience, of which a minimum of 5 years should be at managerial level with strategic focus in the corporate or public sector
  1. Comparison of the person specifications in the two documents shows very clearly an effort in the 2019 advert to water down the technical professionalism required for the position. The 2009 advertisement clearly reflected the Objects of the Act which clearly point to a Registered Civil Engineer with a strong roads design and maintenance background in addition to having experience in finance and management. In the 2019 advertisement the job is no longer ring-fenced, even for a registered civil engineer. Worse still, it seems to be tailored to a specific non-engineer.
  2. From reliable sources, engineers at the Uganda Road Fund have been trained with huge financial resources over the last 10 years and that they have requisite qualifications and experience to lead URF. The URF Staff Manual also recommends that the most efficient way to replace outgoing key staff including an ED is to use an internal advertising mechanism to attract staff from within, who can ensure stability and smooth continuity of the organization. It raises eyebrows, therefore, why the URF Board rejected this method of filling the vacant position.

The meeting resolved to find an appropriate channel to request the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) who is in charge of the sector to cause the URF Board to review the advertisement currently running with a view to recruiting a competent and versatile Executive Director who has the specific requisite qualifications and experience in roads planning, design and maintenance.

Eng Hilary Onek promised to follow up the issue with his cabinet colleagues, the Minister of Works and Transport and the Minister, MoFPED in his capacity as a Minister and the UIPE Patron.

As we went to press, 8M Construction Digest understood that the Minister of Works and Transport had already sent a letter to her counterpart at the MoFPED on the matter.

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