By Our Reporter
A disgruntled teacher has petitioned the Inspectorate of Government to investigate fraud and corruption at Walimu Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Limited, a union of teachers that was created to improve their access to economic and social livelihood.
In a five-page petition seen by The Observer, the petitioner, who identifies as a victimised teacher, further lists grounds of obtaining by false pretense Shs 17bn from the ministry of Education and Sports, illegal deductions on teachers’ salaries and the intimidation of teachers, among others.
Among those accused is James Tweheyo, the former general secretary of Uganda National Teachers’ Union (Unatu), who was recently sacked as caretaker CEO for Uganda Printing and Publishing Corporation (UPPC). Other key people accused in the petition are CID spokesperson Charles Twine and Joseph William Kitandwe, the commissioner, Cooperatives at the ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.
According to the petitioner, Walimu Sacco Union is run by opportunists who illegally registered it in 2015 as a vehicle to get money from government.
“I wish to point out to you that what is now being purported as Walimu Sacco Union is actually a shell union created as a conduit for a few individuals to siphon billions of shillings,” reads part of the petition.
“They illegally deduct money from teachers who aren’t even members or borrowers and use their influence in police and State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU) to intimidate and silence dissenting views under the pretext of recovering loans.”
The petitioner accuses Tweheyo of being the mastermind of the fraud in Walimu.
“The gross mess at Walimu is orchestrated by Tweheyo’s overbearing influence in its leadership and operations,” reads the petition.
“He may not hold official positions but Tweheyo controls Unatu, Walimu and is also behind the highhanded actions of Twine in Walimu issues. They are close friends and hail from the same village.”
Twine is particularly accused of harassing teachers who openly complain about the way Walimu is run by detaining them over frivolous charges. Reached out for a comment, Tweheyo said he doesn’t know anything about Walimu Sacco Union carrying out illegal deductions off teachers’ salaries because he is not part of their management. However, he said he has no problem with the IGG investigating his role.
“All teachers’ financial institutions are being investigated and they should be investigated because you cannot take it for granted that they are doing everything in the best interest of teachers. Walimu Sacco Union is for the teachers and the money which it received was meant for teachers. I am not and never been an executive of Walimu Sacco Union and I don’t involve myself in their issues,” he said.
“I was the general secretary of Unatu and I was responsible for the welfare and struggle for fair distribution of resources and I did exactly that. I am one of those who sat with the president in State House in the presence of all other the teachers and I would never let people do things wrong when it is within my means to correct it whether they are teachers or anybody else. If anybody is petitioning, let them do so but at the end of the day, the truth will come out.”
Meanwhile, Twine did not pick our repeated calls whereas and Munira Ali, the spokesperson of the Inspectorate of Government, could neither confirm nor deny receiving the petition.
“I need to crosscheck with other people and get back to you,” she said.
Back in 2011, President Museveni promised teachers Shs 25bn to empower their welfare through a credit scheme. At the time, the Uganda Teachers’ Cooperative Savings and Credit Union Limited (UTCSCU) headed by Joan Asiimwe was the only registered cooperative union for teachers. It had been registered under registration number 9192/RCS in 2010.
When the money was availed to the Finance ministry in 2014, the ministry of Education identified the Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) as fund manager and okayed the release of the first batch of Shs 9.3bn to kick-start the effort.
According to the petition, it was at this time that a different teachers’ union emerged to claim to manage the money.
“I am aware that the Unatu leadership approached Kitandwe to register another union with the same name in order to get the remainder of the money. He went ahead to register the new Unatu union on December 2, 2015 under number 10739/RCS. According to the petition, the new union fronted by Unatu hurriedly went on to sign a memorandum of understanding with the ministry of Education on December 4 and received Shs 2.1bn that very day.
The petitioner further calls into question the conduct of some ministry officials in not only entering an MOU with a union that was formed just two days prior, but also disbursing Shs 2.1bn that very day.
“Several officials from the ministry of Education took bribes and kickbacks to approve that sham process,” claims the petitioner.
The petitioner further argues that as a cover-up of the fraud, Kitandwe later wrote to the Unatu union informing them he had discovered there was another union with the same name and advised them to change the name.
“This was clear fraud and Unatu union had to refund the money got,” says the petitioner.
“Sensing danger ahead, the Unatu union went back to Kitandwe and forged the existence of another union called Uganda Teachers Savings and Credit Cooperative Union (UTSCCU) whose registration was backdated to January 24, 2014 under number 4096/RCS. They then pretended to have changed the name to Walimu Cooperative Savings and Credit Union on December 24, 2015 under number 10739/RCS. This is similar to the number registered by Unatu’s initial illegal number,” notes the petitioner.
According to the petitioner, the Asiimwe union had started distributing the funds to various teachers’ Saccos. However, it was at this point that Walimu, armed with the name change, amplified their agitation to get the fund but questions remained over their legitimacy.
According to the petitioner, the Education ministry was supposed to channel all the Shs 25bn to the Asiimwe union but it instead held onto the money.
The Education ministry went on to a deal with Walimu Sacco Union to give them Shs 17bn with Tweheyo a witness to the memorandum of understanding (MOU). Meanwhile, the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) froze the accounts of Asiimwe’s union until the matter is resolved.
“Twine masterminded the arrest of Asiimwe and put her on trial on frivolous charges yet the culprits behind the fraud were let scot-free,” reads the petition.
“The CID has taken a side in these matters and allegations from Walimu Sacco Union were intended to shield themselves from the spotlight of how they fraudulently registered and got the Shs 17bn. What is baffling is that it is not clear where the Shs 17bn is.”
With Walimu Sacco Union controlling the Shs 17bn, the petitioner alleges that a huge chunk of that money was shared among the top Unatu leadership. The petition further alleges that whereas Walimu Sacco Union disbursed some of it to teachers for borrowing, they also started doing illegal deductions on those who were not even registered members.
“Many teachers have lost a lot of money due to their continued illegal deductions but they are threatened with arrest by Twine,” says the petition.
“Walimu Sacco Union started the illegal deductions to remain liquid after part of the Shs 17bn was allegedly shared by the top leadership. Walimu Sacco Union currently has less than a billion of the Shs 17bn.”
Tweheyo, who sits on the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) representing workers, is accused of using his contacts within security to frustrate the teachers.
In 2018, President Museveni briefly appointed him to head the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU) but dropped him a few months later and replaced him with Lt Col Edith Nakalema.
In spite of this, the petitioner insists, “Tweheyo continues to pull strings in SHACU for his personal benefit and this puts him in a conflict of interest situation.”
“His investigations of Asiimwe using Twine are in conflict of interest because he is deeply entrenched with Walimu. If the available information is confirmed that indeed the Asiimwe union is the legitimate teachers’ union, then Tweheyo and Walimu Sacco Union would have to return the Shs 17bn for impersonating the right union.”