The theft and diversion of relief items, such as food, goats, and iron sheets meant for the people of Karamoja by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), have exposed rot in the OPM. This industrial thuggery has led some people in Karamoja to term the Office of the Prime Minister, abbreviated as OPM, as the “Office Poorly Managed” (OPM).
The center of trouble is the Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Ms. Mary Goreti Kitutu, whose relatives and political supporters were found with iron sheets meant for the people of Karamoja. Subsequently, investigations implicated almost the entire OPM staff.
Ms. Kitutu later apologized to the parliamentary committee for the diversion of relief items meant for the people of Karamoja.
Investigators spent several weeks interrogating various ministers on how they received iron sheets meant for the people of Karamoja. According to statements from these ministers, for example, Mr. Matia Kasaija of Finance, he received a phone call from someone in the OPM informing him about the presence of iron sheets offered for support of his constituency. He received the first batch, which he said he gave to a government school he was fundraising for. The second batch of 300 iron sheets ended up in his compound, and he claimed not to know how they got there.
On the other side, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms. Annet Anita Among, also said she received iron sheets and donated them to government schools. She maintained that she never requested the iron sheets and paid back for the ones she received after realizing the wrongful allocation.
State Minister for Planning, Mr. Amos Lugolobi, used the iron sheets for roofing his goat farm but later replaced them with his own new ones.
Minister Hillary Onek of Disaster and Preparedness, while appearing before the committee, told members that the lack of coordination from the OPM was the main cause of the mess. According to Mr. Onek, many issues have been done behind his back. He categorically stated that when Shs 20 billion was allocated for Karamoja by the cabinet for procuring food, some wanted Shs 2 billion for procuring vehicles, but he objected in writing and advised that all the money be used for buying food for Karamoja. Unfortunately, all his communications were not followed.
“If we had been working together, all this mess would not have happened,” Minister Hillary Onek told the committee.
Mr. Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda, the Member of Parliament for Kira Municipality in Wakiso district, while addressing the media, said Prime Minister Ms. Robina Nabanja, Deputy Prime Minister Rukia Nakadama, and Ms. Rebecca Kadaga, the 1st Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for East African Affairs, should have also been arrested, arguing that they know how the items were diverted. According to Mr. Ssemuju, other ministers under the Office of the Prime Minister can be investigated, but the first people to face arrest should have been the prime minister and her team who always sit every Thursday and discuss a one-week program.
Going back to what Minister Hillary Onek said, now if President Museveni had appointed him as prime minister, I think all this mess would not have happened given the fact that he’s one of the most senior ministers.
Who is Hillary Onek?
He’s an engineer, businessman, and the current Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees in the Cabinet of Uganda. Onek was first appointed to the position on May 27, 2013, replacing Tarsis Kabwegyere. The Lamwo Constituency legislator is a registered Chartered Engineer in Uganda who has the authority to sign technical documents and give legally binding technical advice on issues concerning Civil Engineering.
His Education Background
He was born on May 5, 1948, to Samson Okello Otto and Mrs. Jera Ayoo, the second born in the family, an Acholi by ethnicity. Samson Okello Otto served in the King’s African Rifles (KAR) in Kenya in 1946 and married his wife Ayoo during that time.
In 1954, Onek resigned from army service and joined the Public Works Department (PWD) at Entebbe, later working in different parts of Uganda, including Soroti, Hoima, Moroto, and Mubende. Onek attended his primary school in Moroto and Karamoja District. He then joined St. Mary’s College Kisubi for his secondary and O’ & A’ Level education from 1965 to 1970.
Onek engaged in sports and social activities during his time in High School, including serving as Assistant House Prefect in Mugwanya House and participating in athletics. Between 1971 and 1974, Onek attended Makerere University but dropped out before graduating. He then proceeded to the People’s Friendship University in Moscow, Russia, where he pursued a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Civil Engineering and a Master of Science (MSc) in Engineering, majoring in Water Resources & Hydro-technical Structural Engineering from 1974 until 1979.
Onek completed a one-year fellowship at the Moscow Institute of Civil Engineering in Hydropower Dams & Hydro-technical Structures after completing his masters, from 1979 until 1980. He holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Investment Appraisal and Management from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, attained in 1994.
In 1997, Onek attained a postgraduate certificate in Public-Private Partnership in Utility Management from the Institute For Public-Private Partnerships in Washington, DC. In 1998, he joined Makerere University, graduating in 2000 with a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA). He later joined politics and is still active, representing Lamwo County.