In the last week the New Vision has published excerpts of the Auditor General’s report on the finances of the Commonwealth Head’s of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
Hosting CHOGM two years ago was a major landmark for Uganda in as far as we had several heads of state streaming including the Queen of England. Prior to the event questions were asked about how the government planned to leverage the event to for example, promote tourism.
The answers were vague at best and mainly revolved around “Just by hosting the event the world will know Uganda and tourists will come in automatically.” We are still waiting.
But the Auditor General’s provides adequate explanation why our planners were not looking beyond hosting CHOGM. Clearly officials could not afford to blink for fear that they would miss out on the free-for-all feeding frenzy that was going on around the CHOGM funds trough.
Interestingly the eye popping revelations about the sh370b-and-mounting event caused less of stir among the public, compared to the missing millions lost by national Forestry Authority boss Damian Akankwasa or the hundreds of millions in assets acquired by Principal Accountant Nestor Gasasira on sh6m a year salary.
This should not surprise anyone. We the public cannot wrap our heads around the billions of shillings pilfered annually by state officials but can relate to tales of enrichment of individuals because there we can compare with our own often sorry, predicament.
As a public we have become increasingly cynical. As outsiders looking in on the party, we cannot help but feel that considering the huge sums being stolen that there must be tacit approval from the system.
Otherwise how for instance do the car dealers for instance pass off three year old cars leased for the event as brand new and then go ahead to inflate the contract price way beyond what one would pay to buy a brand new car?
If our state machinery cannot, will not or do not want to check these kind of shenanigans
what confidence can we have in the same system protecting is from terrorists?
As far as I can see everyone is for sale. How different is it diverting billions towards self enrichment, when people die from preventable diseases because our health system cannot cope for lack of resources from taking money from a terrorist to look the other way while his bomb kills a handful of revelers on Saturday night?
And the general public should stop giggling at tales of graft and care about corruption’s repercussions. Poverty eradication should be our number one priority because beyond its dehumanizing impact it has a destabilizing effect on whole societies triggering instability and chaos.
Corruption is like a tiger, you may only ride it for so long (please don’t try that at home) before it runs amok and turns on the you.
Many times in this column I have argued that this country does not lack resources, it just lacks management -- and this goes beyond technical capacity to include managers with threadbare moral fiber.
The vicious cycle has long been complete. The bar of morality has been pulled down so low it is now part of collective psyche to believe one cannot prosper without stealing. We applaud our corrupt officials even if the mathematics is clear there is no way he/she would have accumulated what they have on a civil servant’s salary.
Looking forward it is not difficult to see that corruption if it has not already happened, will be so pervasive as to be unmanageable by the civilized judiciary processes. It will get so out of hand that one to the back of the head with your family billed for the bullet, will become a more palatable option.
Fortunately an anti-corruption bill is being brought to the house which proposes the confiscation of a convicted corrupt official’s property.
But this should go further and empower Uganda Revenue Authority or another such agency to bring anybody to task to account for their wealth, if their income declarations with the tax authority do not support the person’s wealth.
The question is who will bell the cat?
Published October 2009, New Vision