Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Being a civil servant is not for the feint hearted and a politician more so. This impression was cemented last week, when we learnt that government has been overrun by wolves, is being patrolled by sharks and that the mafia are running around with unfettered abandon...

During the launch of his latest book “A tale of two wolves in Sheep’s clothing”, gender ministry permanent secretary Pius Bigirimana alluded to people in government intent on frustrating the fight against corruption and not averse to throwing the champions of the anti-corruption fight to the wolves.

Bigirimana, formerly a PS in the Office of the Prime Minister where billions of shillings went missing during his tenure there, has protested his innocence on the matter. He is in fact feted as the whistle blower who triggered off the investigation which has come to be personified by former principal accountant in the same ministry Godfrey Kazinda, whose case(s) are winding their way through our courts.

The irony seems to have been lost on Bigirimana though, that it may not be safe to recommend his son for a job in the government.

We had had no time to recover from these jaw dropping revelations than state minister for works John Byabagambi told parliament that his decision to cancel a tender awarded to a Chinese firm to build a standard gauge railway from Malaba-Kampala was in the best interest of the country. That his action forestalled a dubious plan to steal money from government, before revealing that being in government was not unlike swimming in shark infested waters.

And while we were still catching our breath Byabagambi’s senior minister, Abraham Byandala, distanced himself from stories that he had a hand in the botched Mukono-Katosi road tender. He claimed that the stories were being fuelled by his rivals in government who were envious of him and wanted his job. He however might have thought references to wild animals were becoming a well-worn cliché and called his conniving colleagues, Mafia.

And a few days later President Yoweri Museveni weighed in on the subject and reported that government is full of extortionists, who held back the crucial fertiliser plant in Tororo.

What is going on?

The picture being painted of our government by members of government is one of cut throat rivalry between the ministers and unashamed competition for public resources.

"Clearly the general public serve only as a stepping stone for the honourable ladies and gentleman to rise to the high table where they can set upon public funds with animalistic alacrity and to hell with rest of us.

It does not take a rocket scientist to tell that the government is now being held hostage by thieving technocrats, opportunistic politicians, slimy conmen and gluttonous businessmen and it does not take a biblical prophet to see that this progression cannot end well.

Air supply; the practice of winning tenders to supply government with goods and services but not delivering and still getting paid.

In those days one of the biggest scams, was not supplying reams of papers. A cursory look through the press 30 years later shows that our tricksters are now way past stealing stationary, they are now gobbling roads, factories and machinery.

How did we come to this?

It’s no secret that when the NRM marched on Kampala in 1986, whereas they may have been a formidable fighting force they were very thin on the ground politically. They built up their political base in two ways, they coopted politicians of different shades into their ranks and two, they left the civil service largely intact. It seems in order to keep these Johnny-come-latelies onside, the NRM, looked the other way as they gorged themselves on public funds.

If the calculation was that these officials would be reined in when they had “eaten” enough somebody seemed to have forgotten the deadline.

So not only have they become more insatiable, they have grown in sophistication, become emboldened by the tacit approval of their primitive accumulation and spawned a new generation – or two of ever more eager “eaters”.

But the chicken are coming home to roost.

There are huge demands on public finances now, the donors are pulling back their support and there is only so much the good people at the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) can wring out of the tax payer.

"Expect that some hard decisions are going to have to be taken in coming days, months and years to feed a few officials to the baying public. Unfortunately there might not be much science to the coming purges and good men may give way before or with the crooks....

However there is still room for optimism despite this bleak picture. 

Notice that all the revelations have employed predators – wolves, sharks and even the Mafia, as a metaphor for the corrupt, suggesting this “animal” being hunted down may still be swift and nimble needing specialised skills to run it down.

"The time to be really afraid is when the metaphors shift  to scavengers – vultures, hyenas and marabou storks, you will know the “animal” is a carcass and we maybe best advised to head for the hills to avoid the stench...

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