KAMPALA- Ministry of Finance top officials are reported to have expressed disquiet over President Museveni’s remarks that the ministry is full of thieves. They have also told members of staff that they “should not be intimidated” by the new corruption fight.
Sources who attended a Finance ministry staff meeting last Thursday told Sunday Monitor that officials warned that Mr Museveni’s new approach in the fight against corruption could be abused by some investors to intimidate officials.
The top officials did not directly refer to the President’s recent briefing to Cabinet where he harangued the Finance ministry, but they were quoted as having noted that “nobody should intimidate us … we have done a great job”.
Our sources quoted him observing that the new approach which uses whistleblowers to help entrap dirty officials could “demoralise’ government officials.
Two Finance officials were recently arrested after a Chinese investor blew the whistle on them for allegedly soliciting a Shs15 billion bribe.
The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, said he was in a meeting yesterday and, therefore, unable to comment on the latest development.
His concerns were nonetheless taken in stride at State House. The Senior presidential press secretary, Mr Don Wanyama, reminded officials that “this is Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo” (loose Swahili meaning ‘presidential term for no games’).
“It’s those who are involved in corrupt practices who should be worried and for good reason. Those who are going about their functions faithfully and judiciously have no reason to worry. The President is only targeting the corrupt and there is no turning back,” Mr Wanyama said.
After the staff meeting on Thursday, Finance minister Matia Kasaija issued a statement in which he reassured the donor community. He also warned staff that “whoever is in the habit of perpetuating corruption through soliciting bribes and other forms to desist from this evil habit, lest they will be dealt with in the law harshly”.
The minister was not available for comment yesterday.
But Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda told Sunday Monitor “There is no one single method that one would use to fight corruption. Corruption is a problem that requires a multi-pronged approach. I believe the methods used are yielding results and should be supported.”
Premier gives nod
Dr Rugunda defended President Museveni’s encouragement of whistleblowing, arguing that it is complimentary and does not take away the role of institutions mandated to fight corruption.
“There is no contradiction at all, what the President is doing is complimentary and gives support to the existing institutions,” he said.
Anti-Corruption Coalition in Uganda’s Executive Director Cissy Kagaba said the officials have no point in finding fault with President Museveni’s method.
“I wouldn’t want the Finance officials to hide under the cover that they will be demoralised. If they know they are going by the book, then there is no point in being worried,” she said.
Ms Kagaba also said this approach, commendable as it is, should not obscure the efforts of legally established institutions mandated to fight graft.
“While the President’s efforts are supported, it is also not good for President Museveni to micro-manage the fight against corruption but instead leave the institutions to do their work,” she said.
Inspector General of Government Irene Mulyagonja, whose docket was established as a frontline institution to fight graft and other forms of abuse of public office, seems pleased with recent developments. She said what President Museveni is doing is exactly what she asked him to do last year.
“When I talked to him (President Museveni) in Kyankwanzi, I said top officials must set the tone in the fight against corruption, which is what he has done. In fact, the President in many instances complains to me and reports cases of corruption,” she said yesterday.
“I have no problem with the President’s approach because he has involved police, which is also an institution mandated to fight corruption. Ours is a specialised function and we are not going to fold our hands,” she said.
At a recent Cabinet meeting, the President is reported to have been furious with Finance, accusing the ministry of failing to check corruption.
Both Mr Kasaija and Mr Muhakanizi were reportedly chided for running “a ministry of thieves”.
At this meeting, the President is said to have narrated how his men caught Mr Charles Ogol, the principal finance officer, and Mr Geoffrey Turyamuhika, a senior economist red-handed, pocketing $60,000 (about Shs216 million) from Guangzhou Dongsong Energy Group (U) Company.
The officials were charged in the Anti-Corruption Court last week.