Monday, August 25, 2014

MUKONO ROAD SCAM, IS THIS THE WAY THE UGANDA GOVERNMENT OPERATES?



The Mukono-Katosi road scam is like a bad itch that will not go away.

The story’s continued dominance of this newspaper’s headlines has variously been right in our face or hovering just under the surface but never far from our collective conscious.

The tender to construct the 74 km road has fallen foul of questionable procurement procedures at the Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA). UNRA failed to do adequate due diligence on the winning contractor Eutaw Construction Company, which it has been found out apart from being a briefcase company, uttered forged documents in support of its bid and has indulged in even more questionable manoeuvres to salvage the deal.

"In addition to several technocrats in the roads authority, several ministers past and present, have been sucked into the deals evil vortex. All of whom protest their innocence...

What is clear from the reports that have been running is that this deal was an intricate scheme fashioned over five years and would have gone unnoticed hadn’t a forged insurance bond purportedly from Statewide Insurance Company (SWICO) come to light.

Judging from the smoothness of the execution and the impunity with which the key players went about their business it is not farfetched to believe that these were seasoned operators.

Which raise the larger question – is this the normal way government business is conducted?

Last year it took presidential intervention to get the construction on the 600 MW Karuma dam going. 
This was after determined action from government officials and middlemen around town delayed the one billion dollar project for almost two years. The saboteurs used every trick in the book and even went as far as ignoring lawful court orders, cabinet decision and even presidential directives in their single-minded ambition to have their favoured candidate win the deal.

These two projects are but that the tip of a very large iceberg.

A cursory look over the news reports over any period of time and one will not fail to recognise the tell-tale signs of corrupt dealings – inflated costs, contracts unfinished, substandard works and in some instances key officials being assassinated.

Corruption has become so endemic that every adult Ugandan has been roped into the evil industry knowingly or unknowingly.

Knowingly by, actual commission of the theft of public funds or by turning a blind eye to the shenanigans or by celebrating these officials even when we know they are enjoying lifestyles way above what their pay scales can afford. Unknowingly we abet corruption by accepting substandard services from the government even when we know better.

The general view on the street is that after the noise has died down nothing will happen. The road will be built anyway. The perpetrators of the scheme will thumb their noses at us and continue to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth in our midst. And we shall presently move on to the next scandal.

I choose to see things differently.

"For every scam exposed even if the deal masters are not brought to book, causes pause for them and their contemporaries in the industry. Exposure chips away at impunity, ever so slowly but surely...

The scam artists should also begin wondering about the loyalty of their political backers. Politicians are very fickle and will go where the wind blows. To save their political careers they may choose to throw a few fraudsters under the bus if only to ease public pressure on themselves.

And finally as a senior official once said, there is no association of the corrupt. You cannot call a meeting of the corrupt and they turn up. It was a variation of the saying that, “There is no honour among thieves.”

We look forward to interesting times.

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