Saturday August 23 2014

Minister should own up mistakes made or resign

By Obed K Katureebe

Uganda never ceases to amuse. It is a country known for producing great men and women but at the same time, it has mischievous people in equal measure.

Take the example of senior politicians who when cornered in wrong doing are quick to blame their political opponents or those coveting for their juicy political offices.

In their “ingenuity”, they cry to whoever dares to listen that they are being witch hunted by mafias with bigger connections. And you guessed right, the author of this very talk is none other than former vice president Gilbert Bukenya.
The culture of blaming the “invincible mafias” by such politicians has spread like wild bush fire. Take the example of the now trending corruption story in the media about the construction of the Mukono-Katosi Road.

After it was realised that the company that won the tender to construct it was a quack one, those implicated in the deal are under spotlight.

Among them is the line minister Abraham Byandala who is alleged to have written an express letter directing the executive director of Uganda National Roads Authority Sebuga Kimeze to sign the contract even when due diligence was not yet completed.

And now when the going got tough after the Inspector General of Government (IGG) busted the scam where government is set to lose Shs24 billion, Byandala in a typical cowardly move, is now blaming fellow ministers Frank Tumwebaze , John Nasasira, John Byabagambi to be scheming for his downfall.

New Vision chief Robert Kabushenga and retired minister Richard Kaijuka are also among the listed ‘mafias’. This is indeed absurd.
Byandala’s accusation towards his fellow colleagues in Cabinet as being jealous of his job raises intriguing questions.

What criteria does Byandala use to ascertain that his ministry is the most coveted? Could it be the reason it is embroiled in huge financial scam? Why would a minister whose appointment is a prerogative of the President ever think that by pulling down a colleague he or she would automatically take that position?

Did Tumwebaze, Nasasira and Byabagambi kidnap Byandala at any one time and force him to write the infamous letter where he expressly directed the executive director of UNRA to sign the contract with Eutaw Construction Company even when he knew they had not finished due diligence?

Byandala like Bukenya before him, is trying to blackmail the appointing authority and the investigating organs of government not to go down to the bottom of this scam.

He is clearly trying to generate sympathy from the unsuspecting public, a thing Prof Bukenya tried and failed dismally.

In his interview, Byandala was so shameless to say that he was better off before he joined politics.

Then if that is so, why can’t he resign and concentrate on his personal business and career which he proudly boasts of. Of course nobody will miss his service if it is the kind we see in the Mukono- Katosi project.

The questions being raised here are simple to answer if Byandala is as clean as he claims to be. Let him together will UNRA swallow their pride and apologise for totally failing to do their part and as a result, putting Uganda’s taxpayer’s money at a risk.

Let him and UNRA device a mechanism to ameliorate this mess and if need be, take over the Mukono-Katosi Road construction, that is if UNRA has the capacity to construct the road. As it stands, government cannot continue remitting to a quack company that Eutaw has proved to be.

The earlier Byandala instructed UNRA to repudiate this contract and then instructed the re-tendering of this crucial road, the better for him. This of course will delay this road but it is the only viable solution given the scandal that has marred this construction.
Finally, one wonders why Ugandan politicians and public officials find it so difficult to admit wrong doing whether committed by commission or omission. Let Byandala apologise for the mistakes committed in his docket or resign. The whole shenanigan of yapping about mafias wanting to finish those in self inflicted problems is becoming stale to our ears.

Let them be men enough and give concrete answers to legitimate questions raised rather than regurgitating this rather tired escapism statement of “mafias are after my life”.

Like Gen Mugisha Muntu once said, people should learn to accept occupational hazards. We crave for public offices; we should, therefore, be prepared to account and answer for every public money we are entrusted with.

Since Byandala has chosen politics as an occupation , he should accept the hazards of the profession, one of which is scrutiny.

Mr Katurebe works with Uganda Media Centre-Office of the President