- Worry. Ugandans feel that unless the seat of power takes a different approach in tackling corruption, as some countries are taking against the vice, corruption will sink Uganda.
This week, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga ordered an investigation against Finance minister Matia Kasaija and Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi for allegedly bungling Shs700b government money.
In 2016, the Eastern and Southern African Trade & Development Bank (PTA) granted a $200m (about Shs700b) loan meant for procurement of medicine by the National Drug Authority. The money was also meant to clear contractor payments under rural electrification. In addition, it was also meant to cater for importing earth moving equipment from Japan and funding of government foreign exchange requirements. Suspicion has been raised with allegations ripening that the money was never received by NDA or rural electrification.
In Uganda, corruption scandals exposed in the media are no longer alarming news. It is the normal way of life for some elite and Cabinet ministers. Some of the most memorable corruption scandals surrounding the elite date back to 1999: The deviation of public funds involving Uganda Airlines which resulted in the national carrier collapse.
In 2006, Global Fund money was swindled and yet it was meant to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. Then, as though in competition, came the Chogm scandal.
In 2007, according to the African Peer Review Mechanism report, Uganda lost more than $258m annually to corruption. Since then, 11 years later, the staggering amount of money Uganda loses to corruption has shamefully skyrocketed, with key culprits remaining untouched.
Meanwhile, the actions of the unpunished become more daring and damaging to Uganda’s image, reputation and economy. The public continues to face the consequences of corruption with an ailing economy. The rural schools are in deplorable condition with a significant number recently shut down and innocent children left bewildered, as the little they had was taken away. At the same time, Uganda’s health care system is limping with highly qualified doctors choosing to work abroad.
To many Ugandans, it would seem that corruption is openly promoted, encouraged and permitted with some individuals even guaranteed protection.
With the government seemingly uncomfortable with the image of corruption hanging over its head, it decided to spearhead some legislative initiatives. The hope was that these efforts would deter corruption in public offices.
Therefore, the Inspectorate of Government was instituted and tasked under the Leadership Code Act, to ensure that public servants declare their wealth every three years. Other initiatives included the Anti-Corruption Act 2015, and the list goes on and on.
Some people say these government initiatives are a sign that government is prepared to fight corruption, but strongly lacks the will to do so since it protects the elite. Many Ugandans feel that unless the seat of power takes a different approach in tackling corruption, as some countries are taking against the vice, corruption will sink Uganda.
In Saudi Arabia, a few weeks ago, the elite, including former finance minister Ibrahim Al-Asaaf, former minister of economy and planning Adel Al Fakeih, among others, were accused of corruption and forcibly held for weeks by the government at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton hotel.
They were instructed to refund the countries stolen wealth in cash, properties and other assets. Failure to comply would result in prosecution and a jail sentence. In comfort with speakers streaming Arab music, a buffet was laid out but the food remained untouched. The Arab elite in shock refunded the stolen funds in millions of US dollars.
In Uganda, barely two months into 2018 and corruption scandals are already surfacing. We might have to brace ourselves for more corruption cases, if restraint is not exercised over individual protection.