Forty thieves ‘fasting theft’ for forty days can do wonders
Posted Sunday, February 24 2013 at 02:00
On Wednesday last week, I joined millions worldwide in sporting the one-day Catholic ‘sigida’ signifying my determination to spend a holy forty days of non-indulgence. That was in the morning, and being a lousy Christian, I solemnly declared that I would not drink any champagne during Lent and trying to be clever, I threw in a bonus to ‘poor God’ by declaring that I would not fly business class until Easter. But during the evening service, a sermon by my local padre brought me back to my senses.
You shouldn’t declare to fellow men what you are forgoing during Lent, the good reverend Father said. On the contrary, he added, you should “put oil on your head”, be of good cheer and only make your declaration quietly to God. So out of the window went my false no champagne, no business travel declaration; I made my secret resolution which I hope to keep – so help me God.
Now that I am done with the man in the mirror, its time to turn to the next man – the one we give our taxes to manage our affairs. Just imagine what would happen if our leaders and public servants resolved not steal our money for ‘only’ forty days! Do you know how much saving the government would make?
If our budget for a financial year is Shs10 trillion, and studies have shown that half of it is stolen at different stages, then a decision not to steal for forty days would roughly save us half a trillion shillings! Shs10 trillion divide by 365 times 40 divide by two.)
Seriously, half a trillion can be ours for making useful expenditures if the public servants chose not to steal during Lent. This is because stealing public funds is a willful action, not an impulsive, unconscious or accidental happening.
We may not all be accountants but at least we know that every month, some form of balancing or reconciliation of accounts takes place in all government departments.
These are then signed off by a very senior official, presumably a permanent secretary. That is what internal auditing is about anyway. There is therefore no way theft of even Shs1 billion can go undetected for longer than one month, let alone a year.
So the surprised reactions to the Auditor General’s report that say, Shs50 billion was stolen from the Prime Minister’s Office in some given year are in a way quite insincere on the part of us all. What should surprise us, is why every month no big thief was arrested, because certainly every month the internal auditors knew that several billions had been stolen.
Now, just in case our public servants decided to ‘fast theft’ for forty days, there would be some additional benefit. Psychologists tell us that if you refrain from a certain habit for long enough, you can actually kick it for good.
And Christians believe that forty days of abstention with prayer are enough to cleanse you of any strong habit. Forty days without any alcohol or nicotine entering your system can cure you of dependence on it for good.
Similarly, or is it wishful thinking, forty days without stealing can cure our public servants’ long fingers for good.
At least, some of them would certainly kick the stealing habit. That would mean that Uganda would actually save more that just half a trillion in a financial year if our big men and women forwent stealing during Lent.
But even if we are pessimistic and assume they all return to their thieving after Lent, recouping ‘only’ half a trillion itself is not bad at all. With such a saving, we could buy 10,000 ambulances and put one in each village, so we would no longer have women holding onto banana trees while delivering babies – with 16 women dying in the process every day in our country.
Alternatively, we could use the money to buy one million computers, and ensure that every kid under UPE can access a computer connected to the Internet at least once a day. This would also mean that the other trillion we spend on education would start yielding even better results!
Education and health could thus benefit greatly if public servants forwent theft for forty days over two. The following year, the benefits of ‘theft fast’ could be injected into roads and so on. Somebody please tell our forty thieves to ‘fast theft’ for forty days!