Slap saga lifts lid on alleged toxic and unhealthy working environment created in Trade Ministry by PS Ssali

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A recent alleged incident of assault within the Ministry of Trade has sparked a cascade of revelations regarding an alleged toxic working environment fostered by the Permanent Secretary, Geraldine Ssali. The Minister of Trade, Francis Mwebesa, has taken decisive action by urging the head of Public Service, Lucy Nakyobe, to address the concerning situation.

In a letter dated April 9, 2024, Minister Mwebesa expressed deep concern over the unprofessional conduct exhibited by Ssali, which he believes has significantly deteriorated the working conditions within the ministry. He cited instances of forced transfers of key personnel and highlighted a pervasive atmosphere of toxicity that has driven some staff members to seek early retirement.

The turmoil escalated when Sandra Anena Karen, the head of the legal department, accused Ssali of slapping her, shedding light on an underlying crisis within the ministry. Anena’s decision to report the assault incident to the Kampala Central Police Station brought the issue to public attention.

Anena accused PS Ssali of assault.

However, Ssali responded by interdicting Anena, levying accusations of misconduct against her. Minister Mwebesa criticized this action, emphasizing the necessity for due process before any disciplinary measures are taken. He underscored the ongoing criminal investigation into the assault, urging fair treatment for Anena.

Moreover, Minister Mwebesa raised concerns about Ssali’s performance as an Accounting Officer, citing delays in remitting subventions to agencies, which adversely affect their operational efficiency. He recommended decisive action against Ssali, citing her inability to effectively fulfill the ministry’s mandate and implement the NRM manifesto.

While Ssali has denied allegations of high-handedness and favoritism, this is not the first time she has faced scrutiny. In October 2023, she was suspended as the Ministry’s accounting officer following allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds for renovation works. Despite parliamentary inquiries and accusations of inflating project costs, President Museveni ordered her reinstatement, fueling further controversy.

As the investigation unfolds and tensions simmer within the Trade Ministry, stakeholders await decisive action from the Public Service to address the alleged misconduct and restore a healthy work environment.

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