By Prof. Vincent Bagire
Fr. Robert Binta Isingoma Amooti’s body gave way to cancer of the bones in the United States and was laid to rest on Monday September 10th, 2018 at Virika, ending a legacy of a balanced people and task manager. I thus unreservedly dedicate this month’s column to the memory and honor of his managerial capabilities. I worked with Fr. Binta, or we shall use Bob as he was popularly called, at the Uganda Catholic Secretariat (UCS) between 2002 and 2007 as an accountant. He served as the financial administrator to the Uganda Episcopal Conference. Through that time, I worked as the financial and administrative officer of the HIV/AIDS program in the same organization. We diligently reviewed budgets, set audit plans, discussed facility issues, drew financial statements, evaluated audit reports, compiled bank reconciliations and trained staff in financial management.
Prior to his coming to the UCS, we worked with Fr. Alex Koyekoma who was in charge of the same portfolio. May he rest in peace – but Fr. Alex was a task oriented servant of the Lord. As principle signatory to all the accounts, he had set a scientific system of requisitioning and obtaining his endorsement. From management theory, his approach is part of the foundation of management practice and was widely accepted. However, times changed and new behavioral approaches started to gain ground. At UCS, we used one radio call set to communicate and set plans with all dioceses. We depended on postage of mails.
I worked with him, again closely between 1996 and 2001 as coordinator of the Uganda YCS. Given that contigent environment, staff found his approach quite unrealistic albeit being an effective and acceptable way of handling sensitive financial resources. It was thus a change in spirit and work when Fr. Bob introduced a new work ethic around task clarity and behavioral aspects. He demanded clear paperwork prior to going to his office; opened up availability as and when each accountant was in need of his signature, entrusted each department to manage carefully and professionally its budget and submit unblemished reports quarterly; he walked out of his office to units to understand what they did that accounted for the monies he endorsed; he asked along the corridors and compound what challenges we encountered in our work; he consulted on how to improve facilities to make work smooth for every one; he probed for clarity where he was not sure, and for me, very often he called me to explain certain accounting terms and procedures. Fr. Bob thus became the domain of a people oriented manager within the principles of financial management and UCS administration. He did not wish to be reason for delayed activity implementation, nor the source of any fraud in handling the huge amounts of funds across the many units at UCS. He carefully and satisfactorily balanced both till he stepped down in 2007.
Who was Fr. Binta?
At the requiem mass held at Our Lady of Africa church, Mbuya shortly after his remains were repatriated from the US where he died, mourners shared a variety of experiences of Bob. He had been an all-round priest, teacher and administrator. His last posting was as Pastor of Phoenix parish, Ariziona in USA; I actually last talked to him in August 2017 on my way to check on him. Shortly before taking a flight from Los Angeles, he asked that I do not go as doctors had recommended a bed rest and no visitors! Later, I only got his whatsapp messages. On ending his tour of duty at UCS, he had relocated to the US. Ordained priest of Fort Portal diocese in August 1991, he worked as a teacher in the seminary, curate, diocesan treasurer and chaplain. His singular legacy is being the founding chaplain of the Parliamentary Catholic Chaplaincy while he was at UCS. Members of Parliament talked of his presence in their challenging political life; at Parliament, in their families and constituencies.
Fr. Bob insisted on procedures and policies but aware of organizational behavior, he minded human nature and institutional dynamics. He knew all colleagues at work by name and position and for several of us by family life. Many people can give a litany of such testimonies. In his time at UCS, auditing of the finances of all departments that had earlier been resented became a desired annual activity; he introduced a revised financial manual and challenged all units to abide by it, he redesigned the Catholic Secretariat compound and replaced many old facilities. In his work and life, we learn a lot especially those directly in charge of Church resources and processes. May Fr. Bob be rewarded with eternal peace.
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