Pius Bigirimana has been transferred from the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to the Judiciary.
Bigirimana, has been permanent secretary for ministry of Gender since May 2013 following his controversial transfer from the Office of the Prime Minister by President Yoweri Museveni. He will now be taking over as the new secretary to the Judiciary.
“The appointing authority has directed that you be transferred from the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to the Judiciary as secretary to the Judiciary with immediate effect.” reads the letter from the head of Public Service and secretary to cabinet John Mitala.
“On receipt of this letter, prepare to hand over your office within the existing regulations and resort to your new station without delay.” the transfer letter adds.
Before he was transferred to Gender, Bigirimana was at the centre of a multi-billion shilling scandal in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in which over Shs 50 billion meant for post war recovery in Northern Uganda was misappropriated by the OPM staff, including the convicted principal accountant, Godfrey Kazinda.
Although the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), recommended that Bigirimana be prosecuted for playing a role in the mismanagement of the money, President Museveni, who, vehemently defends Bigirimana, moved the embattled PS to Gender in a mini reshuffle.
Bigirimana, in his defence, maintained that he blew the whistle on the scam that has led to the conviction of Kazinda for abuse of office and forgery. After his transfer to Gender, Bigirimana would in 2016, author two books, From Tears to Cheers, with a foreword by First Lady Janet Museveni, a brief analysis of reconstruction in northern Uganda between 2007 and 2012, and also addresses the development of Karamoja and Teso sub-regions.
He also authored another book, Youth Livelihood, which discusses a model for empowering youth in the developing world, premised on experiences from the Youth Livelihood Fund, which Bigirimana championed. Bigirimana had earlier authored two books: Corruption: A tale of a Wolf in a Sheep Skin and Abundance Mentality.
In Gender, Bigirimana often clashed with Nakiwala Kiyingi, the state minister for Youth and Children Affairs over the Youth Livelihood funds.
“The Youth Livelihood program existed before me and I believe it will even exists even after me but it is very clear the minister has mandate, the permanent secretary has mandate and so do the other officers and even the beneficiaries have their mandate. So, the anomaly I realized is when someone is the author of the program is an implementer, the supervisor, the broadcaster, and you go to the news and broadcast your achievements. So, the program itself does not have natural checks and balances.” Nakiwala told The Observer in 2017.
“To me, I think that is natural clash but what you should know is that the [Youth Livelihood] money should fall to the right beneficiaries, the young people. I have heard the young people being taken to jail. That is why I moved out to find out the truth because unlike other ministries, we deal with people. We don’t deal with roads, we don’t deal with buildings, we deal with people. ..So, I go out to find out from them and many have told me they didn’t get the money. So, I am still finding out what it [youth livelihood programme] is all about; I am still confused. The youth are saying the money was just paperwork. So, let anybody come out with proof; we just need proof, that is it. I am not an implementer but he is. My work is to ensure that whatever is there is nothing but the truth.”
However Museveni is all praises for Bigirimana, and recently, he said Bigirimana had managed to take the youth out of poverty through his Youth Livelihood Fund. In May 2018, Bigirimana was rejected by power distributor, Umeme shareholders as one of their board of directors at their annual general meeting held at Sheraton Kampala hotel.
Bigirimana had been nominated by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) as a non-executive director of Umeme. NSSF is the biggest shareholder in Umeme and is partly under the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Other nominees included Anthony March, Andrew Buglass, Stephen Emasu and Riccardo Ridolfi. After the nominees presented their credentials, they went out to allow for a vote, after some shareholders refused to endorse them without a vote. After a simple vote, the shareholders accepted all other nominees except Bigirimana whom they said were uneasy with due to his tainted image over alleged corrupt practices.
Bigirimana also came under scrutiny before the Land Probe Commission last year after he reportedly requested and received Shs 504 million from the Land Fund in 2016 for 50.5 acres of land on plot 5 Bulemeezi, block 103 that had been encroached on by squatters despite not qualifying for the compensation.
“Because you knew it was not a normal transaction, you knew Mr Bigirimana that you did not qualify why didn’t you return that money to government. We know you as a corruption free man, zero corruption. That is the concept that you [portray] but am a bit out for whether you stay in honour of that in view of these transactions that you have made”, said land probe commissioner Robert Ssebunya.
The commission’s lead counsel Ebert Byenkya said that Bigirimana’s documentation was covered in inconsistencies and that he did not qualify for compensation.
In an interview with CBS radio after being ordered to vacate Nommo gallery, Security minister Gen Elly Tumwiine branded Bigirimana and secretary to the treasury in ministry of Finance, Keith Muhakanizi as “thieves”.
“Both Pius Bigirimana and Keith Muhakanizi are thieves, I told them point blank in their faces, they are the thieves in prime minister’s office, they are accounting officers according to section 55 of the finance act, if you lose money, you are held responsible,” Gen Tumwine said.
Bigirimana’s Gender ministry had demanded that Tumwiine starts paying rent for using Nommo gallery but Tumwiine argued, saying the gallery was given to the artists by then President Milton Obote and that its not government property