AU staff association claims graft rife at the organisation

The secretariat of the African Union is facing new allegations of corruption and impunity, just over a year after African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat promised to fight the vices.

In a detailed memo, the African Union Staff Association (AUSA), the umbrella union for workers at the AU, says the organisation has instead plunged into a stranglehold by cartels, and its top leaders have ignored policies.

Last week, AUSA wrote to the Mr Mahamat outlining what it called a “clear violation of cardinal principles” in human resource management that have seen some acting bosses confirmed without interviews as some retirees’ contracts were extended without following due process.

Dated March 06, 2020, the memo arose from a protest about the elevation of “a junior officer” to act as the AUC’s Head of Human Resource Management (HHRM).

“By and large the appointment is regarded by the staff as the manifestation of glaring cronyism and total collapse of leadership, which member states continue to underscore,” AUSA says in the memo signed by their president Sabelo Mbokazi. “AUSA sought information from the both the Bureaus of the Chairperson (Mahamat) and Deputy Chairperson (Thomas Kwesi Qwartey) and there was confirmation of the circulating news about the illegal confirmation of the HHRM.”

The association, which represents about 2,000 employees of the continental body headquartered in Addis Ababa, is protesting what it called flouting of local rules as “chaos prevails both at the headquarters and regional offices.”

Last week, Mr Mahamat’s office told The EastAfrican that the memo will be handled using internal procedures, but didn’t comment on the actual allegations in the document.

“It is an internal memo from the Staff Association addressed to the chairperson. Such processes or memos are addressed internally,” Ebba Kalondo, Mr Mahamat’s spokesperson said.

The workers claim that there has been consistent failure by Mr Mahamat to ensure that the directives are followed by juniors.

For example, although he issued a directive that people in acting capacities are not confirmed unless a competitive recruitment is done, AUSA argues this has not been followed.

The Association says it expected the chair to rescind his recommendation confirming the acting HR manager because they say the official was unqualified for the job.

Mr Mahamat, a former foreign minister of Chad, took office in March 2017 with a promise “to ensure good internal governance throughout the entire Commission”.

But in May 2018, his office was had to form a special team to investigate claims of widespread sexual harassment against female staffers. A report tabled by the team six months later confirmed the allegations, after more than 40 women presented cases of harassment.

But the team also found a stiff organisation that had malpractices in staffing, bullying, governance, fraud and corruption, impunity and sexual harassment, which thrived mostly because there was no policy against it.

On staffing challenges, the team found a backlog in recruitment, seconded staff disadvantaged, poor management of youth volunteers and interns and gender discrimination in appointments.

AUSA has accused Mr Mahamat of “succumbing to the corrupt cabal”.

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