Monday, October 5, 2015


This week the Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) board took a chainsaw to its staff, sacking all of them to facilitate a complete overhaul of the organisation, which has become the poster boy for corruption and greed.

The almost 900 workers will be let go over the following weeks but have been given the option to reapply for their jobs when applications are called.

UNRA has said that it needs to almost double its staff complement within the year, so for some of the workers without sticky fingers there is hope.

If there is any doubt about the extent of rot in UNRA, then, that the board was compelled to sack everyone says it all.

Over the last few months we have watched with jaw dropping shock as official after official before the Bamugemereire commission grudgingly revealed, was tied up or was tripped over by the web of lies they needed to spin to cover up the scams that went on at the Authority.

"What was clear is that these officials went about their business – not the official kind, with  impunity, confident that their shenanigans would never come to light, never mind that they were wheezing around in brand new cars, living it up on holidays abroad and sipping cocktails on the verandas of their palatial mansions, right below our very noses...

Weeding out corruption, so entrenched as it is in Uganda will often be a losing battle.

To begin with, pinching from the workplace is the new normal – just because we do not whack people over the head with metal bars or make them surrender their money at gun point does not make it less of a crime.

Secondly, there is no social censure of the corrupt – we even give them pride of place in our churches.

And finally because of the above, we have set the bar on what constitutes corruption very low.
It’s ok to claim per diem for three days when we have only been out of office one day; its ok to use company transport for our private errands; its ok to pilfer a few coins from the office because other people steal more.

Thankfully the days of extra judicial killings are past. But people used to nonchalantly walk around dead bodies on the street as they rushed to work or the location of dumping grounds was a topic discussed over a beer before we moved on to more serious  topics like who is getting married to who and which station is selling fuel the next day.

It was once said that love of the good life is the source of corruption. Wanting a good life, seeking progress need not lead to corruption.

Let us not kid ourselves. Like we have seen with other organisations that were once the epitome of corruption, that when the bad seed was cleaned out the incoming breed was also corrupt, maybe not as corrupt as the first but it was really a matter of degree.

"I continue to disagree with people who maintain that us Africans, Ugandans more specifically, we are inherently corrupt. That we have a demon seed in us, that we cannot help ourselves when money is lying around. One has to admit though, that the anecdotal evidence (no one really gets convicted for these things, do they?) is overwhelming as to suggest we might just be irredeemably flawed....

I have hope, if not in the inherent goodness of the human condition, at least in the inexorable march of progress, call it evolution if you want.

For our businesses to compete with global companies, for government to maintain its relevance by providing better and better services for more and more people, something has to give.

I would like to believe that what will put paid to corruption in our society is when the cons outweigh the pros of allowing a corrupt society to continue.

However, I would warn you not to hold your breath for this day of reckoning

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