PS Muhakanizi’s candle burns out at 64: What you didn’t know about the IMF’s blue-eyed boy
By Evans Najuna
Kampala – Former Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Keith Muhakanizi is dead.
At the time of his death, Muhakanizi was the Permanent Secretary in the office of the Prime Minister.
The 64-year-old Muhakanizi was born in Bujera, Buyanja Rukungiri district, but later relocated to Lyantonde district. Muhakanizi previously worked as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, and one of the longest serving Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury.
He breathed his last on Thursday 13th April 2023, in Italy at Milan hospital where he has been receiving treatment.
Muhakanizi has been instrumental in macroeconomics policy and planning, financial sector growth and private sector growth in the country and served in various departments at the Ministry of Finance for years.
He also served as Board member of numerous organizations. In addition to being the chairperson of the EPRC Board of Management, he served as the chairperson of East African Development Bank since May 2013.
Early Life and Education
He was born in Rukungiri district to the late Rev. Kosia Kajwengye and the late Zeridah Kajwengye. He was born to a family of 7 children, 4 boys and 3 girls.
Muhakanizi’s mother was an ardent religious woman while his father Kajwengye pioneered evangelism in Rujumbura that later spread to the whole of East Africa.
In addition, they also taught families about the cleanliness of their homes and personal hygiene, built schools, health centers as well as pioneering the best methods of farming in the region.
Muhakanizi while talking about his parents before death, said they did not get formal education but were very intelligent and were like degree holders.
His late father was the only one who studied up to primary four and was able to serve as a headteacher of a primary school for many years before joining Church ministry.
While his mother was an illiterate woman, she did not attend any classroom. The only education she achieved was the mother’s union lectures, but she was an exemplary leader in their family.
Work and Experience
Before his death, Keith Muhakanizi was the Permanent Secretary in the Office of Prime minister, and previously PSST Ministry of Finance. He took over office from Chris Kassami.
Late Keith Muhakanizi was both an ardent development and macro-economist, and a public sector management specialist with 41 years of experience in government, rising from an economist to the position of Permanent Secretary to the Treasury at Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development of Uganda then to OPM.
In the 1990s, he played a central role in the formulation and implementation of economic reforms that restored the macro-economic stability of Uganda’s economy.
Muhakanizi guided both the technical and policy development work in the preparation of successive national development plans. He prayed a pivot role in policy reforms and enhancing public financial management to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of public resource use to promote enhanced domestic resource mobilization.
Muhakanizi, while at Ministry of Finance, was instrumental in designing major policy changes along with Chris Kassami. He was also a board chairman of National Housing and Construction Company.
Muhakanizi served as Board Member, Bank of Uganda and chairperson Housing Finance Bank Limited Uganda. He was also the chairperson/ex-official member of the EPRC Board of management and former Director Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and former Deputy Secretary to the Treasury at the Ministry of Finance.
Among his controversies besides receiving credits for his contribution towards Uganda’s economic growth figures over the years, he received a lot of criticism for the bloated public expenditure and numerous supplementary budgets.
Muhakanizi and the Minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija in 2017 were named in the imported rice scandal. The two were accused of being behind a decision to exempt taxes on imported unprocessed rice to benefit from the directive.
Muhakanizi also had a fight with Evelyn Anite, State Minister for Privatization and Investment in 2019 during the Uganda Telecom (UTL) recapitalization process which resulted in a scandal.
At that time, government was searching for a suitable investor to take over UTL that was already struggling. So, Anite and Muhakanizi had a fight on whom to audit the company as directed by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Muhakanizi mentioned that the Ministry of Finance could not allow the company to be audited by someone appointed by Anite.
This was after President Museveni directed Anite on July 16, 2019 asking her to cause an audit into UTL to enable the government confirm or clear the allegations about the mess at the telecom company. This caused a standoff between Anite and Muhakanizi about whether to audit the company or not.
Later on, the civil division of the High Court gave a green light to the Auditor General to conduct the audit. According to Muhakanizi, his stand was that the government through Anite should not appoint their auditor but was not against the audit as alleged.