Sunday July 27 2014

Shouldn’t jailed PS pay back bicycle money?

By Joachim Buwembo

Kati why are they jailing the poor man?” my maid asked with indignation as she watched news of the ageing ex-permanent secretary being sentenced to 10 years in prison over the loss of Shs4 billion in the LC bicycle scandal. “Will the LCs get the bicycles because the man has been sent to jail?”
“But if they hadn’t jailed him you would have complained bitterly,” I said.
“But her question is, will his jailing help the LCs get the bicycles?” the minister’s maid said as she jumped to her friend’s aid.
“He has been ordered to pay back the money as well,” I reminded them.
“And can he pay the money?” my maid asked.
“Better ask if anybody expects him to pay back the money,” said the minister’s maid. “Do you think he has the Shs4 billion sitting somewhere waiting to pay back to the government?”
“So are you people saying people should not be sentenced even after being found guilty?” I asked in amazement and anger.
“Not that,” said the minister’s maid. “But can he realistically be expected to pay back the money when we know it must have been shared by several people?”
“Which ones?” I asked in a bid to stop her from making loose statements which cannot be backed.
“Obviously someone big enough in Finance who ensured the money was released without the bicycles being supplied must have eaten,” she said as she ticked one off her fingers. “Then secondly a big political figure must have okayed the scam. Thirdly, the supplier of the bicycles who never supplied must have taken a big cut but he conveniently died and cannot be forced to tell how he shared out the loot since it was him who initially received it all. Fourth are the ministry bureaucrats who served under the jailed PS. Now the PS can at most only manage to pay back Shs1 billion if he makes all his ministry colleagues cough up whatever they got.”
“But the taxpayers must be refunded in full,” I argued.
“So if investigations were conducted to convict the PS and his colleagues, why don’t they indicate how the Shs4 billion was split so that all people who ate pay back the piece they took?” she challenged.
“But don’t you at least appreciate that the prosecution convinced the judge that the PS and his colleagues caused the loss?” I asked.
“I do,” she answered. “But I am just wondering what the whole point is if the LCs will not get the bicycles. “Has the need for which the bicycles were being bought passed? Why doesn’t the government go ahead and order the bicycles from another supplier and start paying him with the money that they will be getting from the PS if they really expect that he can pay the money?”
“So are you suggesting they leave the convicts free or what?” I was getting exasperated.
“No, all I am suggesting that if investigations are carried out, then all people who took the money should be prosecuted so that when they order for the recovery of the money it can actually be recovered,” she said. “Unless the government is only interested in punishing one of the several major players, the investigators must be knowing how the whole fraud was executed and should, therefore, have all the players charged.”
I did not want to pursue the matter any further for she seemed determined to make all my arguments futile.