Shs 14mln recovered as Pallisa district officials are probed over extortion of job seekers

PALLISA- Police in Pallisa are investigating members of the District Service Commission [DSC], technical staff, and politicians over allegations of corruption and extorting staff in the recruitment process.

The Resident District Commissioner [RDC] Pallisa, Majid Dhikusooka early this month directed the district criminal investigations officer, ASP Carol Mukyala to probe the DSC officials following a public outcry over corruption in the staff recruitment process.

In the January 3, 2023 letter addressed to the Mukyala, Dhikusooka, said:  “It has come to our attention that some politicians, technical staff, and some members of the District Service Commission extort money from the public during recruitment.  There is also public outcry that these fraudsters have gone ahead to make our people poorer by selling their properties to give them money promising them jobs.”

Dhikusooka further wrote, “This matter was a concern in our previous district security committee meeting in that this dubious practice has been going on for some good years whenever there is recruitment in the district.”

“This is unacceptable, and this practice must stop. I am happy that on December 23, 2022, Pallisa district council joined our efforts and condemned the vice.  On that note, I am directing you to investigate the matter so that the guilty can be brought to book.”

Dhikusooka said he has directed the implicated district staff to refund the money extorted from job applicants with some success.

“They [officials] have started refunding the money. I have so far recovered Shs 14 million from five technical staff and politicians who had extorted money from applicants. I first recover the money of the poor before I take any other action. I have handed over the money to some of the victims,” Dhikusooka said.

He said the officials had extorted job applicants between Shs 2mln-10mln. “We have a case we are investigating where an applicant was conned Shs 10mln for the position of the pharmacist,” he alleged.

Investigations ongoing

ASP Carol Mukyala confirmed that police have already begun their work. “It is true we are investigating some of them [officials]. The files are many and more are still coming. One file has already been sanctioned,” Mukyala told this reporter recently.

In May last year, Pallisa DSC advertised jobs calling for suitable applicants for the positions of a pharmacist, enrolled midwife, teachers, enrolled nurse, district education officer among others.

A member of the DSC who requested anonymity in order to speak freely, said some members have been extorting money from applicants, promising jobs, which are not available.

“Officials were flouting staff recruitment procedures. Some of them received the bribes through the mobile money system and I ask police to write to different telecommunication to vail printouts to help in the investigations,” said.

However, the chairperson Pallisa DSC, Phillip Omagor Otukei, declined to comment on the matter, when contacted to give his side of the story.

On his part, the Pallisa chief administrative officer, Donato Oola Olam, acknowledged the corruption related-complaints.

“The RDC is handling those complaints. We do not condone extortion. We expect the process of recruitment to be free and fair and transparent,” Donato said.

The CAO further commended the members of the public for being vigilant and reporting the matter to authorities.

When contacted, Patrick Duchu, the Pallisa district LCV chairperson, condemned the act and said applicants are not supposed to pay any money to get jobs.

“Extorting money from people to get jobs is criminal. I got the complaints from the members of the public and I handed over the matter to the office of RDC to investigate. Some people have been selling jobs to applicants,” Duchu said.

Duchu said irregularities have over time been cited in Pallisa DSC, but was quick to say that they are fighting the vice.

Harriet Mugala, a retired civil servant, demanded an overhaul of the recruitment exercise, saying it was marred by forgery and extortion.

“The DSC and some district officials conned applicants of millions of monies. Victims have good evidence. Although police are investigating the matter, we want to petition the State House Anti-corruption Unit [SHACU], the Inspector General of Government [IGG] to intervene in this matter,” Mugala said.

Related corruption allegations

Pallisa DSC has previously been shrouded in controversy over similar allegations.

For instance, in 2019, the Public Service Commission [PSC] directed Pallisa DSC to repeat the recruitment of the community development officer [CDO] and parish chiefs, saying the recruitment exercise was marred by irregularities.

According to a June 25 2019 letter, signed by the Permanent Secretary of PSC, John Geoffrey Mbabazi, addressed to then chief administrative officer [CAO], Joseph Maira Mukasa, the DSC officials were advised to rescind their decision.

Mbabazi said the DSC irregularly appointed Anthony Athieno as community development officer [CDO] and Nicholas Opurusi and Julius Orone as parish chiefs. “In view of the above, the appointment of Mr. Opurusi, Mr. Orone as parish chiefs, and Mr. Athieno as CDO be rescinded. Therefore, Pallisa District Service Commission, be advised to repeat the exercise,” the letter read in part.

This was after a petitioner, Moses Kagwa and others in their letter of August 1, 2018, addressed to the IGG and PSC, alleged that Pallisa DSC recruited officers who lacked the relevant experience and academic qualifications.

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