Reappointment of corrupt govt officials threatens Uganda’s economy

Sunday July 22 2018


By Victoria Nyeko

Recently, it was reported that the government reappointed permanent secretaries (PSs) and chief administrative officers (CAOs) previously blacklisted after failure to account for public resources.

There are growing concerns that corruption and theft of government resources is normal, and in some cases expected, even though it is against the law. Government reappointment of the blacklisted PSs and CAOs suggests that government has confidence and trust in their ability and integrity, despite supporting evidence of financial mismanagement and accountability failures.

The accusations against some of the officials included diversion of more than Shs500m meant for construction of two RDCs’ offices in Adjumani and Mubende districts, mischarge of expenditure amounting to Shs375m and advance payments to personal accounts amounting to Shs4.4b, among others.

In a letter dated March 28 from Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi to the Clerk to Parliament, Ms Jane Kibirige, 10 government officials were accused of failing to account for funds.

Surprisingly, a new list tabled before Parliament recently indicated that nine of the 10 blacklisted permanent secretaries were reappointed.

Furthermore, 18 out of 20 CAOs accused of incompetence seem to also be heading back to their offices to continue mismanaging public resources. Communication from Muhakanizi in a letter dated May 24 to the PS Ministry of Local Government, Mr Ben Kumumanya, asking him to fire 20 CAOs over incompetence and also directing the ministry to nominate CAOs’ replacements seems to have been ignored.

While corruption may have increasingly become an ordinary way of life and accepted as the norm, implications of the reappointments of the accused officials may have far-reaching implications for Uganda. Attracting foreign direct investments from multinational companies may increasingly become difficult.

It is possible that where corruption of government officials rampantly exists, there is ease in bribing the said officials. Thus the repercussions for multinational companies being caught up in corruption and bribery scandals stretches beyond reputation damage.
It is highly unlikely that these companies would want to invest in high risk corruption destinations where fraud is casually accepted as normal with corrupt officials rewarded with reappointments.

In 2017, Halliburton, a multinational American oil field services company, had to pay almost $30 million (Shs110 billion) to settle civil charges related to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act over corruption allegations concerning $13 million in contracts to a local company owned by a former Halliburton employee with ties to government officials at Sonangol, the Angolan state oil company.

The official then approved lucrative contracts for Halliburton, bringing in profits of $14 million for the Houston-based company.

Halliburton ended up incurring financial losses for their involvement with corrupt government officials in Angola.

So if left unchecked, the reappointment of accused government officials in Uganda could pose concerns for multinational companies, threatening foreign direct investments.

Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.
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