Most of the time when citizens complain about issues of corruption in the ruling NRM government, the criticisms are mistaken for being against government and yet it is supposed to be taken in good faith.
The Observer on, Wednesday, June 5 reported that the parliamentary Budget Committee recently discovered that the National Identification Registration Authority (Nira) pays rent amounting to more than Shs600m every year (Shs51m per month) for their offices located at Kololo Independence Grounds.
Nira, under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, started operations in 2014. And according to the executive director, Ms Judy Gama, “our mandate is to create, manage, maintain and operationalise the National Identification Register by registering Ugandans, assigning unique numbers and issuing identification cards to all Ugandans.”
The rent scandal was discovered during a parliamentary Budget Committee meeting when the chairperson for the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs, Doreen Amule (Woman MP, Amolator) requested that consideration should be given to the allocation of Shs12b to allow NIRA buy land and build their own offices since rent payments to the ministry of Defence are costly and unsustainable.
It was then revealed that Nira, a government project engaged in government work, is charged rent by the Defence ministry for office space in which government work is carried out.
West Budama North MP Richard Okoth Othieno suspected that there is no payment being made, but people are just using that cover to steal State funds. It seems the government is overwhelmed by corruption in different ministries.
Although government has showed the desire to curb corruption by setting up the State House Anti-Corruption Unit, the widely held perception is that if government really wanted to get rid of the vice it would go after the big fish as a deterrent to other corrupt officials.
It seems dealing with the big corrupt officials is a difficult task that may take time. According to the World Bank, “Corruption has a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable, reducing access to services, health, education, justice and a major challenge to ending poverty by 2030 for the poorest, especially the 40 per cent of people in developing countries.”
Consequently, it is possible that the NRM failure to tackle corruption more aggressively will have direct negative impact on any efforts that government makes to manage the escalation of poverty across the country.
In January 2016 at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, former US secretary of state John Kerry reinforced that corruption must be made “first-order, national security priority because corruption feeds organised crime, destroys faith in legitimate authority. It opens up a vacuum making businesses more expensive to operate; it drives up the cost of public services for local taxpayers; and it turns a nation’s entire budget into a feeding trough for the privileged few. The fact is there is nothing more demoralising to any citizen than the belief that the system is against them and that people in positions of power are, to use a diplomatic term, stealing the future of their own people”.
In Uganda, it is business as usual and the hope of corruption among government officials being effectively managed seems to be still very far away.
Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.