Saturday, October 28, 2017

Filling URAs TIN Number Form Is Like Doing An Exam in Quantum Physics

There is something about being a civil servant. Civil Servant is a breed unto their own, with their own rules of ethics, sense of dress and approach to work.

Civil Servant can be spotted a mile away. If he is male, he’s likely to wear a white shirt - a short sleeved one at that with a tie and beneath it, a fishing net vest. Who on earth still wears short sleeved shirts with a tie? Surely, it must be against the laws of fashion? Going on, he also has three to four sets of Bic or Nice House of Plastic pens – blue, black, red and green in his shirt pocket. Why he needs a multitude of different coloured pens I don’t know, but I suspect when they are neatly lined up in his shirt pocket it makes him look all important, like he is the final signatory on the ministry cheque or some important document. Lastly, he has a laptop bag with him except, there is no laptop in it, but a Bukedde or New Vision newspaper from last December and more pens just in case the ones lined up in his pocket die on him.

Recently I found myself in need of something called a tax identification number or TIN to complete a business transaction for without it so I was advised, said transaction could not be completed. It was news I didn’t want to hear because it would necessitate dealing with Civil Servant and going to a cramped URA office that has no air conditioning and where I guess they still use wooden furniture that was constructed when Sir Andrew Cohen was still Governor General of Uganda in the 50s.

URA Commissioner General, Doris Akol 
The first step to getting a TIN number is to go online and fill in the application form. It should have been easy enough except, that I don’t have a PhD in the Comprehension Civil Service Speak and thus was unable to understand the form the first time I read through it. And the second time too, the third and the fourth.

The first question was easy enough. “Title (optional)”. Question 7 which was mandatory because it had a red * is: “Mothers maiden name?” Jeez, but what on earth does my mother’s maiden have to do with getting a TIN number?    

Section C, isn’t really a question but asks you what two identification documents you intend to produce to support the application. It could be anything from employment ID, voter’s card, passport, national ID, NSSF card and so on.  On me, I had an employment ID. That’s it. But I do know my NSSF number off head and duly etched it in the box and made way to the URA office.

Upon arrival, it was more than a pleasant surprise to find they had modern furniture and even air-conditioning but, Fat Woman who bore all the hallmarks of being a staunch civil servant was still there. She had this DO NOT MESS WITH ME look on her face and when I slapped my papers on her desk, she didn’t look up. So I proffered a meek ‘good afternoon’ and still no response.

HER: “I need your NSSF card” she suddenly sprung.

ME: “But the card has no value. Surely it’s the number that you need and I wrote it in the box.”

HER: “I need your NSSF card” then turned back to her PC.

The Finger and Pout of Assuring
So what did I do next? I hurled four tumbavu’s at her, knocked her PC off her desk and gave her two hot slaps before security sprung to action and arrested me. Okay so I am lying. I needed her more than she needed me so I meekly trudged off round the corner to NSSF headquarters and half-an-hour later, I was back with a gleaming new NSSF card.

Do you sense a ‘BUT’ coming on? There was indeed a ‘BUT’. “But it has to be approved. Come back tomorrow or Friday” so she blurted out.

ME: “You mean somebody has to approve which TIN number to allocate me?”

Of course, there was a deftly silence so I upped my game. “Listen, I am not applying for a bank loan. I am sure getting a TIN number is a five-minute job. Just find a number which is free and put my name next to it.

For that suggestion, I was directed round the corner to see Supervisor who had no inclination of helping me until he spied my surname. There is no need to bore you with the details but to say, ten minutes later I was on my way home with a TIN number.  

What surprised though, was that they didn’t ask for 10k as ‘administrative fees’. 

Pictures:  New Vision, Agencies      

Friday, October 20, 2017

Museveni's Kids Can't Read or Do Sums

Are our children getting the best education? Weeks ago, I was invited by former students of Kitante Primary School to read to the children. “P4 students” so Kenneth Kayondo, an old boy of the school and one of the organisers informed.

I'm In Charge
But hold up a minute, WTF do I TB, know about P4 students! Back at home I went through my book collection trying to find something suitable and void of profanity. First book I picked up - Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. So NOT a good idea! How about Jackie Collins - Confessions of a Wild Child that The Ex left behind when she moved out? Never to have read any of her books so I quickly flipped through it and there on page 68 I think it was, were paragraphs of steamy and raunchy content which, Father Lokodo and his Porn Committee would have wasted no time demanding Aristoc remove from the shelves.

Ten books later and with nothing appropriate I evoked Plan B. Magazines. First magazine that fell out of the dusty box was err, Playboy which featured the model Naomi Campbell. Nuff said. So to Kitante I went empty handed, but I need not have worried because appropriate books were provided.

One thing about standing at the front of the class and looking down at 30+ kids staring back at me, is that within two minutes, I had spotted that boy who was going to drop out and end up as a taxi tout near Radio One and the girl destined to be a salon assistant.

As the reading got underway with the book – Greedy Monkey Loses a Best Friend, there was something troubling about it - nothing to do with content or the illustrations, but with the grammar. Yes, we writers make mistakes and on occasion, I have spotted minor errors in this column when reading it in Sunday Vision, but by then it’s too late to do anything about it.

Full of Errors
In the book, the mistakes were not minor but unforgivably colossal – almost from page one through to the end. Imagine the word ‘father’ was spelt as ‘farther’. In a number of paragraphs some words suddenly sprung up in upper casing. Full stops were omitted and commas put in the wrong places.

Now how are we supposed to get our children to read and write to a level that is above par from books that are littered with spelling errors and grammatical gaffes? Did the author of the book not read through it before it was sent to the printers? And frankly speaking, whoever did the proof reading should be banished to the furthest corner of Uganda to re-read the book – How To Learn Your Alphabet.

Kitante aside, last month Daily Monitor ran a story that made for the most disconcerting reading. It said: “Uganda is second in the world with pupils who can’t count.” At school I was poor at maths, but thankfully when I was in P4, I could easily count past 5 unlike kids today.

The Damming Report
Days ago, a friend of a friend asks if I could “lift him to the main road”. I sat rooted to my seat while my brain tried to decipher what he had said. Brain drew a blank so there was a need to ask that he repeat himself. And again he said: “Can you lift me to the main road?” After going back and forth for an eternity, I eventually grasped he was asking for a lift in the car to the main road. And he’s a Makerere University graduate!    

Suffice to say Uganda is not alone in giving children a substandard education. Recently in Nigeria, 75% of the 21,780 teachers in Kaduna State failed to pass exams set for six-year-olds. Ouch, ouch!            
Oh Dear!
Pictures: Daily Monitor, New Vision, Kitante School Reading Club 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

You're Fired!

In the 80s, I used to work in Canary Wharf, East London. I don’t know how many people the company employed, but sizeable seeing that we occupied three floors.

One evening as we left at the close of day and headed to the pub, one of the boardrooms was being rearranged – not that it concerned us that much because it was something that happened on a regular basis.

Shortly after 11:00am the following morning, an army of men and women in suits and suits skirts trooped in carrying everything from laptops, flip charts, cardboard boxes and set up camp in the rearranged boardroom.

It didn’t take that long after their arrival for whispers to resound through the three floors that the men and women in black trouser suits and skirts were auditors – from Arthur Andersen if memory serves me correct, and had been tasked with helping the company to ‘downsize’ – a term that then, was ‘Greek’ to me.

The Words Every Employee Dreads To Hear
For the record, in a business enterprise, downsizing is “reducing the number of employees on the operating payroll. Some users distinguish downsizing from a layoff, with downsizing intended to be a permanent downscaling and a layoff intended to be a temporary downscaling in which employees may later be rehired”.

Over the course of three months there were tears if you got back from lunch to find a pristine white envelope on your desk with a letter that read something along the lines of: “...with regret you are surplus requirement to the direction the firm is taking...” and “...wishing you the best in future endeavours...”

I survived, but not for long for two weeks after the suits had packed up and gone, the boardroom rearranged to the way it used to be, there was a global financial meltdown. The markets collapsed and in a matter of hours, thousands were without jobs and err, including me.

What Next After Getting The Axe?
Closer to home, Auditor needs to take a trip State House. A few weeks ago, I called State House asking to speak to Human Resource. “Reason of your enquiry” Voice asked. I was tempted to tell Voice that it’s of no concern to her but thought otherwise and politely responded that I needed to find out the structure of the payroll and how many people State House employs. A click later, and I guess for 'obvious reasons', the line went dead.

State House employs 32 cabinet ministers and 51 state ministers. In addition, M7 has 20 men and women with job titles of – Senior Presidential Advisor, Assistant Presidential Advisor, Presidential Advisor, Special Presidential Envoy, Special Presidential Assistant, and Deputy Special Presidential Assistant who earn a monthly stipend of between sh15m at the high end for Henry Kajura and sh2.3 at the low end for Tamale Mirundi. For foreign travel, they earn a daily per diem allowance of $460 - $580.  

Advisors Are Raking In A Dime
What bothers, is what on earth do all these people do? To the best of my knowledge and as William Naggaga wrote in Daily Monitor sometime back: “To advise M7 you must meet him, or receive a request for advice. Many have not met M7 nor has their advice been sought, but they still get paid and it would not be polite or prudent to reject either the appointment or the salary that comes with it.” Yesss!!

For example in the job description, what is the difference between Special Presidential Envoy and Special Presidential Assistant except in the titles? Or does the Special Presidential Assistant assist the Special Presidential Envoy?

Whatever the case, downsizing is urgently required at State House but with a proviso – with the money and per diem that Advisor earns, if am offered Special Presidential Envoy status, then there be no need to go rocking the gravy boat - is there? 

Pictures: New Vision, Agencies

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Abiriga Flopped Out His Willy At Ministry of Finance!

Oh dear, but that chap in yellow – Arua Municipality MP, Ibrahim Abiriga who is almost as comical as Iraqi Information minister, Comical Ali was during the 2nd Iraqi war, is back in the news. A few weeks ago, Abiriga got himself goofed and slapped about in the corridors of parliament by Ayivu County MP, Bernard Atiku. Hmm!
Ibrahim Abiriga, MP
Let’s pause a minute and delve into the lyrics of Coward of The County by Kenny Rogers which, go along these lines:

Everyone considered him the coward of the county, he'd never stood one single time, to prove the county wrong his mama called him Tommy, but folks just called him yellow...

Is there any need to say more on the subject – y’all know what the word ‘yellow’ means in the context of the song and goofing that Abiriga got?

Getting back, less than a week after his hiding, Abiriga decided to go and do the unthinkable – and no, don’t go thinking he went scouring for goons from downtown to go beat up Atiku. After a long day at parliament, he clambered into his yellow Volkswagen Beatle, drove out of the gates of parliament and somewhere along Ministry of Finance on Nile Avenue, he stopped found some shrubbery, unzipped his yellow strides, sprung his thingy out and with no shame did susu. Let me repeat just in case you think it’s a typo error sentence. “...unzipped his yellow strides, sprung his thingy out and with no shame did susu.” And for added measure Police Bodyguard complete with Ak-47 stood behind him and probably encouraged him to shake off the driblets once he was all done.
Caught In The Act
The shame of Abiriga, is that he did not flop thingy out to pee in the dead of the night while the better part of Kampala were tucked up in their beds and fast asleep. He did it the twilight of the afternoon when mothers were picking up their kids from school!

When he was cornered by the media a few days after the incident, with no remorse he admitted that he had and said something along the lines of: “I was caught short. I had to pee. What did you expect me to do, pee in my trousers?”
His Police Bodyguard Standing Guard
Pause up. Is Ministry of Finance not behind Parliament? Could he not have gone to the toilet before he left the house? When he was a kid, did Parent not tell him to go to the toilet before he went on a long trip?

What annoys is that while KCCA Executive Director, Jenny Musisi took action and dragged him to court for being a 'public nuisance' amongst other things, Parliament Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga has kept mum on the incident and allowed him to get away with it. I have always thought there is a code of conduct that governs MPs and doing susu in the streets of Kampala City is just one of those conducts. But did he turn up to answer the charges? Bleak, so I guess that's that then?
How New Vision Online Broke The story
Perhaps we could forgive him - can’t we, because we all don’t come from backgrounds reaped with etiquette and moral values. If Mr. Bukumunhe - dad that is, discovered I had peed on the walls of Ministry of Finance regardless of the time, he would have been mortified. Then disown me.

But I figure the reason why Kadaga has not fined or reprimanded him, is after doing some research on what might have possessed him to unleash in town, I came across a Daily Monitor article and the headline was to the point - ‘In Arua, Latrines Are A Luxury’ - that many homes have to make do with flying kaveera toilets. And Abiriga comes from and wait for it, wait for it...err Arua! I guess his doing susu on walls in the centre of town was no big deal because its an everyday occurrence back home in Arua.
Could This Be the Real Reason Abiriga Peed In The Streets?
Ministry of Finance should erect a commemorative plaque on the wall just above the patch of dead grass that Abiriga’s susu killed that reads: “Kino kyekifo omukungu wa Palamenti Owekitiibwa Abiriga Weyakunkumula omusolo mu Seputemba 2017.” (This marks the spot where Hon Abiriga peed in September, 2017). 

Pictures: New Vision, Daily Monitor

Expelled From School And Sent to Prison

I was fortunate enough, that during my academic career, I was never suspended or expelled from school – not because I was a good boy who to...