Monday, August 28, 2017

GULU FIASCO, A PEEK INTO OUR COLLECTIVE LOT

Uganda has been hosting a regional secondary schools meet in Gulu for the last week.

It is safe to say that at the end of this event as a country we will not be covered in glory for the shambolic manner in which our officials have gone about the event.

At the beginning of the event key facilities for athletics, swimming and tennis had not been worked on.

Since the beginning of the week we have been served with a frame-by-frame show of development on the pool.

At the beginning of the week they were filling the pool by whatever means necessary – buckets, fire trucks, water bowsers and doing it delicately so us not to dislodge the tiles which had only just been laid.

Then they were tiling the skirting of the pool. And finally they were treating the algae-green water and officials were optimistic that the swimming competitions could kick off today (Friday). For lack of time they were going to modify the competition so as to be done by the scheduled end of the games, on Monday.

"How typical of Ugandan officialdom to leave for the very last minute such preparations for an event of such importance...

They have it down to a tee. Lobby for an international event. Win the right to host it with years to spare. Then forget about it. With months to go – in this case days to go, sound the alarm that we are not prepared and we risk a fiasco if issues are not addressed. When all seems lost and we are about to do the right thing – that is pull out of the commitment, we make a last gasp appeal to state house to rescue the situation.

Of course at this point no one is going to be going over the request with a fine comb. We cobble together a half decent event, the visitors leave and we go on with our lives, the hypertension-inducing crisis forgotten so totally as to make one wonder whether it was just a bad dream.

The formula deviates little from this basic plot.

We saw it with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 2007, we have seen it with Uganda Cranes at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year and with our hosting of the Africa Netball Championships a few months ago and a multitude of events in between.

For a person who has not been following the circus or unable to dot to the dots, one may write it off to the incompetence of the relevant officials. Or maybe put it down to another case of government refusing to leave up to its obligations.

But how can it be?

All the people who organise these events are intelligent, experienced officials whose competence it would be hard to fault. And the ease with each hundreds of millions are released for these events suggests that government isn’t short of money for these events.

So what is going on?

"Your guess is as good as mine. But it would not be a stretch of the imagination to believe that these delays are deliberate, designed to create public concern and panic. This would then justify an unquestioning opening of the money taps from the treasury...

It would be interesting to see a post event audit of some of these events who success was saved from the jaws of failure by a timely and over-enthusiastic cash infusion by government.

This perennial circus has a cost. It means other more crucial budget items are bumped off the agenda for one, incentivises wrong behaviour and need we say, puts money in the pockets of  a few at the expense of the majority.

Since they keep doing the same thing over and over again with no fear of being stopped in their tracks, this behaviour also points to impunity.

How else do you explain civil servants wearing Rolex watches whose minimum price is many times their monthly salary?


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