Wednesday November 14 2012

We must stop this theft of government funds

Given the speed at which the blatant abuse of government funds is coming to the fore, it is difficult to imagine a government institution that can claim to be free of this vice. Even more disturbing are the offices, institutions and individuals that are embroiled in this grand scale abuse.

A recent statement by the Civil Society Organisation revealed a dramatic increase in the rate at which taxpayers’ money has been stolen over the years. Among others, the statement went as far back as 1998 when the purchase of junk helicopters cost the country about Shs20 billion. Later in 1999, the valley dam scandal claimed Shs4 billion.

Reference is also made to the 24,000 ghost soldiers that cost the country about Shs600 million in 2003. In the same year, the country lost about Shs1.6 billion in the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) scandal.

Then there was the 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scam that cost the country billions of shillings. In this scandal, Parliament allocated Shs270 billion to the summit, only for the Auditor General to discover that more than Shs370 billion was spent. This figure rose to Shs500 billion after the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament made further investigations.

And then there was the 2008 Temangalo scam in which about Shs11 billion was lost. In 2010, a company called Muhlbauer High Tech was allegedly contracted without open bidding as required by law. Contracting the firm resulted into government losing of Shs19b. Among other scandals that took place last year, the Shs18 billion bicycle scandal stood out.

One would imagine that with this consistent abuse for which millions of Ugandans have paid dearly, the government would by now have reined in the weaknesses in public finance management. But here we are in 2012 dealing with gross abuse in the Office of the Prime Minister and a Public Service ministry pension scandal that amounts to more than Shs160 billion.

And now with the government spending more than Shs6 billion on the President’s armoured limousines, it is obvious that something is grossly wrong with public finance management this country.

If we do not summon the courage to check this trend, the beneficiaries of this recklessness and the millions that are being cheated will all pay for not doing anything about it.