ROGERS WADADA: Museveni’s new found evidence on corruption is a white elephant and a paper tiger

Roger Wadada Musaalo, a Lawyer, human rights activist, researcher, and politician (PHOTO/File).

KAMPALA – The 2024 State of the Nation Address before the reading of the budget came with surprises.  It is usually a period of anxiety especially for the business community, the focus quickly shifted from financial projections of the period 2024-2025 to corruption. In his address, President Yoweri Museveni confirmed he had picked vital intelligence briefing that there is a corruption racket involving officials in the Ministry of Finance and in the Parliament of Uganda.

I want to inform the President out of experience and from a legal perspective that obtaining what you regard as vital evidence is very easy but being able to lay it before a competent court managed by human beings in the context of Uganda is another uphill task that may never see light of day hence the use of the words white elephant and a paper tiger.

Criminal cases in many jurisdictions are commenced when a formal complaint is filed at the police, then the file is forwarded to the Directorate of public prosecution (DPP) for perusal and advice. If in the opinion of the DPP the evidence is sufficient to sustain the charge(s), then the file is forward to court to prosecute the accused person(s). This therefore means that any omissions, commissions or negligent acts by police or DPP influence the direction of the case, the hands of court are usually tied to the principle of garbage in garbage out.

And that is where my fear lies. Some of the criminal cases are commenced with a view of hoodwinking the nation to believe there is political will to fight corruption. Somebody somewhere is aware that the purpose of the state of the nation address just before the reading of the budget is intended to provide accountability for how money was appropriated in the previous financial year and to show the nation the projections for the next financial year.

But because our budget is partly funded through borrowing and which money is largely misused and or stolen, such public relations are important to show the donors that some steps are bing taken to fight corruption and to prove this, some prominent people are arraigned in Court on corruption related charges. This in turn restores faith among the donor resulting in accepting our posted dated cheques for future loans.  It has become a vicious cycle that never ends while our international debt is increasing every year that passes.

In May this year, Parliament approved the budget for the financial year 2024-2025, sanctioning a total expenditure of Shs 72.136 trillion. This figure exceeds the initial budget proposal of Shs 58 trillion by Shs 14.050 trillion. The government is projected to generate Shs 32.3 trillion through revenue collection to fund this budget. Additionally, the government plans to borrow Shs 1.3 trillion from external sources and Shs 8.9 trillion from internal borrowers. The budget also includes Shs 19.8 trillion for domestic debt refinancing and Shs 9.5 trillion for project support through grants and loans.

The budget estimates allocate the largest portions to external debt repayments, which will require Shs 3.149 trillion, and project support through loans and grants, which will receive Shs 9.583 trillion. Domestic refinancing is allocated Shs 12 trillion, while interest payments amount to Shs 90.94 trillion. Other significant allocations include Shs 603 billion for Bank of Uganda recapitalization, Shs 200 billion for domestic arrears, and Shs 9.1 trillion for domestic debt payments. With this borrowing, what does the future hold for us?

Surely if officials in the Ministry of Finance and in the Parliament of Uganda can connive to steal from the very people they are supposed to plan for, we are doomed. Not so long ago, the Inspectorate of Government revealed the country loses over 10 trillion to corruption. Could this explain why we cannot create jobs for the youth, why we have bad roads, why taxes are high, why there is no medicine in hospitals, why we pay highly for data, power and loans etc?

As usual, the President re-affirmed his government’s commitment to “crash” those who plunder national resources yet at the same time confessed many of these are within the proximity of state house. In effect, Museveni himself is surrounded by thieves on the left, right, front and back. The temptation to think he is one of them is too high in my mind but I will reserve for another day.

The President added the corruption tendencies between officials from the Ministry of Finance and some actors within Parliament also involves accounting officers of Ministries, Departments and Agencies at the time requests for money are made. He did not substantiate whether this is done during the normal budgeting process or during times of supplementary budgets which easily pass because of NRM’ numerical strength in parliament.

Corruption has three faces Museveni described corruption as being perpetrated by three kinds of people namely; the dishonesty, the traitors and the mistake makers. In his view, the traitors and dishonest people have been more corrupt because they take bribes from foreigners to promote their interests in the country. Now that you have proof, please walk the talk.

Having made out a good case, the President contradicted himself when he stated that it is crucial to save the amateurish political actors who come into politics without knowing that leading people does not mean carrying them on your head.” It means that you show them the way, the President noted” While President Museveni believes that some government officials are not inherently corrupt but instead made mistakes , experts say that the anti corruption laws are indiscriminate and must be allowed to handle such persons irrespective of the sentiments.

In other words, the corrupt officials connive to inflate budgets at the ministry, agencies and department level and take it to the Ministry of Finance, which then takes it to Parliament for approval. The President further confirmed there is a racket of people in finance who connive with a group in Parliament to pass money provided they give them a percentage. Could this imply that the leadership of Parliament also has a hand in this game? it’s a matter of time.

Now that Yusuf Mutembuli, Cissy Namujju and Paul Akamba are behind bars for attempting to arm twist Mariam Wangadya of UHRC, a former Deputy Inspector General of Government, let Museveni apply his evidence that he claims to have and also bring on board the other 10 suspects and ensure they are not only prosecuted  but convicted and sentenced.

We are additionally told some of the Legislators had some secret dealings with some Kenyans during the processing of the Petroleum Supplies Amendment Bill in November 2023 while others are working directly with some civil servants to siphon money intended to develop the country. I now understand why everybody is struggling to enter Parliament which indeed has been or has become a marketplace for cutting dubious deals for the powers that be.

Before Ugandans could forget revelations that four backbench Parliamentary Commissioners shared Shs1.7 billion among themselves under the so-called service award, it appears every one in the August house is stained. No wonder NRM is pondering replacing the majority of its members who had been allocated juicy positions in the house.

Corruption in Uganda has become a part of us to the extent that we treat some corrupt tendencies as normal. When the President wakes up one morning a makes a decision to bail some struggling investments leaving others to collapse, we don’t ask questions. Not so long ago, a green light was given to bail out Bitature, now we are planning to bail out the owner of Aya Hotel.

Not so long ago, a certain lady with no known business background was given a lot of money and free land to build a hospital, she has not delivered one and she has proved untouchable. Who is protecting her. Not so long ago, hundreds of Ugandans were forcefully evicted from the Naguru Nakawa housing estate and made to sign agreements that they would be given houses. Over 12years later, they are forgotten yet some greedy people are constructing including a lugogo based church that has been allocated 8 acres to build a church that targets the coperates.

Not so long ago, Ugandans were evicted from the Nsambya land that was housing distressed police officers before the land was allocated to a few entities that have direct connections with the powers that be in this government. As I write, some people are already warming up to steal the Luzira land that is allegedly set aside for an investor to build a hotel.

When you see Ugandans committing suicide, it is not because they want to die, they are doing so because they have found themselves at the end of the road, pushed to the wall and dejected. When you have a country where the poor are very poor, be sure the rich are rich because they have stolen everything that the poor should have benefited from. I wish to ask, who is in charge of this country?

For those who were adults during the regime of President Idd Amin Dada, tell us how many people were rich then and are still rich today?. There is always a price to pay whenever there is a regime change and those who suffer during that time are not the poor. Now no matter how we package things, there is only one sin, only one and that is theft. Every sin is a variation of theft.

Wadada Rogers is a commentator on political, legal and social issues. Wadroger @yahoo.

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