KAMPALA – President Museveni in 2006 announced a policy of zero tolerance for corruption, in 2016, the president vowed to renew the fight against corruption when he took the oath for his fifth term in office and in 2019; he led an anti-corruption walk in Kampala.
On September 9, 2018, President Museveni while addressing the Nation at State House, Entebbe again announced the creation of a toll-free hotline to fight corruption in the public sector.
He encouraged the public to report corrupt public officials using the toll-free number: 0800100770 and 0772634743.
And while addressing the nation in 2019, President Yoweri Museveni called corruption “Public Enemy No. 1,” the remaining obstacle to Uganda’s development.
When these statements come from the head of state, many of us are awash with excitement; our dear president has joined the war against corruption.
But in the recent remarks about his minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr Monica Musenero, warning the parliament to back off the ‘Decorated minister’ for her great role in the fight against Ebola and Covid-19 pandemics, leaves a lot to be desired.
Dr Musenero, under the spotlight, is a veterinarian, microbiologist, and epidemiologist is linked to alleged corruption and embezzlement of Shs 31 billion Covid-19 funds, with whistleblowers petitioning the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate her.
But, before the IGG could take action, Ntungamo Municipality MP Yona Musinguzi took the matter before parliament. And deputy speaker Anita Among promptly appointed a select committee to probe the matter.
And before the committee could start the probe, Museveni seems to have smelt a rat around the corner.
And a visibly furiously Mr Museveni spent over 10 minutes of his speech during the Science, Technology and Innovation exhibition at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds to caution those behind what he termed as an attack on his “decorated scientist”.
I want to ask the way the Bagisu ask: Mr Museveni a wound which is not on your body how does it pain you? A wound that is on Dr Musenero, how does it pain you? For sure why don’t you allow the probe committee to do its work? Why do you warn Parliament? President Museveni are you with us in the fight against corruption or you are against us? And is this is how things have been taking place in the country behind our backs?
Reports by the Auditor General’s office state that corruption is getting worse, with more public funds being misappropriated in increasingly sophisticated ways.
In its Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International (2019) ranks Uganda among the most corrupt countries in the world (137th out of 180) and the Ibrahim Index of African Governance rates Uganda worse than average among African countries, better than regional peers Burundi and South Sudan but worse than Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda.
There have been horrendous stories across the country on corruption; there was a story in 1994 in the west, where auditors went to look for a Shs. 600 million hospital and found that there was an anthill on the site!
Then came the Valley dam saga involving the then Vice president and minister of Agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries, Dr. Specioza Kazibwe where Shs. 3.4 billion was spent on valley dams but when the parliamentary committee investigating the manner in which the money was spent visited a few sites, there was no valley dam constructed.
Dr Kazibwe in her own words told them; “If you can’t see valley dams, then you are functionally illiterate,”
Then there was Global fund, the sick and greatly wanting rural folk which was meant to benefit from the US$ 45.4 million released to Uganda did not. And whereas several people including ministers were implicated in the scandal of mismanaging the global fund to fight Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.
And we had the recent Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), caught in a deepening refugee scandal where they were accused of buying a wetland with a forged land title at Shs8b government funds and then the same organisation was hit by a scandal of abuse of funds for refugees etc, the list is endless.
These incidents point at the grand corruption Uganda has fallen into ever since the NRM/A came to power in 1986.
The grand scale of corruption in Uganda itself should not be surprising. What should worry Ugandans of goodwill is why it continues in spite of the institutions and offices to fight it that are created almost monthly.
First, the government has passed a variety of laws, including the Inspectorate of Government Act (2002), the Leadership Code Act (2002), the Public Finance and Accountability Act (2003), the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act (2003), the Access to Information Act (2005), the Audit Act (2008), the Anti-Corruption Act (2009), the Whistle-Blowers Protection Act (2010), and the Public Finance Management Act (2013). Government agencies have been established to deal with reported corruption, including the Inspectorate of Government (IGG), the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the Directorate for Public Prosecution (DPP), the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity (DEI), the Anti-Corruption Court, and the State House Anti-Corruption Unit.
Besides this, the government’s strategies to fight corruption include the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), the Anti-Corruption Act, and the establishment of a specialized anti-corruption court within the judiciary. Internationally, Uganda has been a signatory of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) as well as the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption since 2004.
Although all these indicate that the president has demonstrated some level of commitment in the fight against corruption, his remarks about his minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Dr Monica Musenero, warning the parliament to back off the ‘Decorated minister’ speaks volumes about his stand on corruption.
This reflects that the president is not internally prepared and morally justified to fight corruption but instead he is consumed by visions of attaining and dispensing political power and patronage.
While the majority of Ugandans feel there are no reasons advanced for the persistence of corruption, government officials never run out of reasons; these are allegations, unfounded rumours and we are going to investigate them.
We have also heard intimidations like, this is defamation, I am going to sue you. Do you know where Uganda is coming from? And they will add corruption like polio is a child of past governments.
Today, corruption in Uganda is not merely an ethical problem, which erodes the moral fibre of society; it is not only iniquitous but has retarded and undermined the social and economic development of the country.
What seems evident is that government cadres practice corruption with impunity. They disregard the rules and regulations knowing that when they bleach them nothing will happen to them or if anything happens it will not be serious to eliminate the gain from corruption.
We started well under the NRM government by preaching Zero tolerance for corruption but 35 years down the road, we have been caught up in the same rubber stumps. And now we make an alarm after stealing, only to confuse those coming to our rescue.
This is obviously due to the fact that even though the government of Uganda has decided to end corruption it has not been able to participate fully in ending corruption because its long-serving and obedient cadres are culprits of the same sin.
Mr. Yoweri Museveni is a strong president with a reputation as a control freak and with the audacity plus courage that enables him to plunge his hand of influence in every small decision in government.
Today, he is patronizing over a regime of serious rising impoverishment of Uganda in terms of moral, ethical, social, political, cultural and economic development. This is the socio-political reality: take it, leave it.
And to cover up NRM failures and corruption scandals our dear president and NRM leaders are preoccupied with self-praises and unreasonable, unrealistic condemnation of the past regimes as though they never were part of them.
It is unfortunate that this is the status quo in our socio-political process. It is not easy to see how a country driven by open and obvious lies, corruption can be said to be developing, let alone safeguard its integrity, independence and sovereignty. It is a big lie. No wonder today it is the society, which accounts to the people in power and not the other way round.
The campaign against corruption in Uganda today, such as it is, has only managed to corner the government in a house. But both the doors and windows to the house remain open. It can climb through the windows into the NRM constituencies, which support it.
President Museveni has addressed the nation several times announcing new measures aimed at stamping out cases of graft but the deeply entrenched corruption across government agencies including the judiciary and police remains the major source of criticism towards him for failure to weed out corruption.
Yes, president Museveni seems disgusted by corruption but unless he and the entire government wake up now to realize that Uganda and the people therein are more important than the systems that deprive them of basic rights, this country is doomed.
Mr President be with us and for us in order to fight corruption out of Uganda successfully, don’t be against us.