What you need to know:
- The issue: Corruption.
- Our view: There should be a sustained fight this time round and necessary reforms should be carried out
Two ministry of Finance officials were on Friday charged before the Anti-Corruption Court following their arrest on March 28 at the ministry’s offices on accusations of soliciting bribes from an investor.
The arrest came just days after President Museveni said as he mourned the slain former police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi that the Public Service is weighed down by “thieves”. On the same occasion, Mr Museveni said the Police Force is itself infested with criminals, charging police boss Kale Kayihura to clean it up.
Before that day, Mr Museveni had on numerous previous occasions decried the existence of corruption in government ministries, departments and agencies, mainly blaming civil servants over the vice. On Thursday, Daily Monitor reported that the President was full of rage as he briefed Cabinet about what he has told the country that the ministry of Finance is full of thieves.
Here we single out the President because, of course, he is the chief executive. Otherwise several top government officials, including the police boss and the Chief Justice, have recently lamented about corruption in the institutions they head.
To the citizens, this lamenting by top government officials does not sound good. The people put in place a government in the hope that the people entrusted with state power will protect the citizens and their property; and of course collect and safeguard public finances so that they can use the money to provide public goods.
The arrest and eventual charging in court over corruption of the two Finance ministry officials just days after the President talked about stealing by public officials, therefore, is a source for cautious optimism that the war on corruption may enter another phase.
But Ugandans will not easily forget that for far too long there has been too much lip-service paid to the fight against graft. The National Resistance Movement arrived in 1986 with the promise of fighting corruption as one of its 10-point programme, but it is nearly universally agreed that the country went on to suffer more corruption during the 31 years of the NRM that it had ever seen before. This is despite repeated promises, especially during campaign time, that the vice would be weeded out.
There should, therefore, be a sustained fight this time round and necessary reforms should be carried out. For instance, why should a prospective investor have to first meet with the President before setting up in the country, which gives unscrupulous officials chance to fleece them to fix appointments?