Who let the ghosts out?

What you need to know:

Shadow phantoms. The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on ourselves, our families, our friends, our country and, especially our children. This is why we must swim or sink together.

It has been a difficult week for President Museveni’s government. Reason: Ghosts. Shadow ghosts have been seen in government, than probably any other ghostly form that one can imagine. From ghost teachers to ghost students in ghost schools, from ghost pensioners to ghost Civil Aviation Authority staff. From the ghosts on the government payroll to ghost private companies receiving billions from government—all these scandals bear the hallmark of a civil service turned into a hunting ground.

These ghosts started in the army, then to police and now in ministries of Public Service and Finance where police intercepted a racket of crooked officials who paid out at least Shs63 billion to 1,000 ghost pensioners last year.

As a result of this theft, more than 60,000 retired Ugandan teachers, civil servants and soldiers have had their payments halted until further notice. Earlier, President Museveni ordered a clean-up of the government payroll after a damning forensic investigation by the Auditor General’s office revealed that ghosts were consuming more than Shs70 billion annually. If saved, this money can also effectively fix the potholes in the countryside and acquire ambulances for referral hospitals.

In the early years of President Museveni’s government, unscrupulous officials used to collude with providers to “supply air” in public procurement deals where taxpayers lost billions of shillings in the process. During these years (1980s-1990s) crooked bureaucrats presented forged papers with sham signatures, local purchase orders, stamps and invoices. But these days, these tricksters budget for non-existent staff, and come to Parliament for approval with inflated figures— complete with ghosts. Some have been caught and others, particularly the accountants, have eluded the system for years.

According to figures from Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, we are losing more than Sh200 billion annually through corruption in public procurement deals. This amount authenticates the latest findings in the Auditor General reports and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets on the extent of corruption in public procurements. Recent figures from the World Bank show that Uganda loses more than Shs500 billion to corruption annually. This money is more than enough to provide ARVs to Ugandans who need them and can also effectively fix our sick healthcare system.

In trying to fight “air suppliers”, the NRM government has promoted its policy of zero tolerance to corruption since 1986. In effect, this policy has effectively eliminated the more explicit forms of graft and criminality such as supply of non-existent goods and services, extortion on road blocks and forgery (to some extent), among others.

Today, the most common forms of corruption manifest themselves through faceless ghosts. But as these ghosts run amok, MPs need to stand up before it’s too late. For if we allow these ghosts to break into our embryonic oil sector, then, we must prepare for the worst. These ghosts are heartless to the extent that they have not spared the money for people living with HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

I am no prophet of doom, but if our parliamentarians don’t control their appetite, our children and their grand-children - even with the flow of petrol dollars, transforming Uganda from a peasant economy to a modern one will never be achieved.

In the end, the ghosts will ensure that the poor get poorer and the rich get “richer”. The conspicuous lack of political will to fight corruption notwithstanding, President Museveni’s government has continuously put in place key reforms that have led to the establishment of a solid legal, administrative and institutional framework to fight corruption.

The problem many Ugandans face today, whether in opposition or in government, is the President’s inability to fight for what he believes is the right thing to do. Regrettably, the institution of Parliament, which is supposed to be pro-people, is also slipping towards this absurdity. The failure to implement the anti-corruption laws is the reason ghosts are winning and pervading the fabric that holds government intact.
To fight corruption, the government, with the blessing of Parliament, put in place quite a number of laws.

This government has also signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention for Preventing and Combating Corruption. However, in spite of the tough laws in place, corruption in both government and private offices remains widespread, and the country faces major implementation challenges.

The government’s handling of recent corruption scandals where Ugandans have lost huge sums has confirmed lack of political backing for anti-corruption efforts. This explains the lip-service in the fight against this vice and the veneration of the corrupt and the rise of ghosts in government departments. Combined with understaffed, poorly financed anti-corruption bodies and a frivolous Parliament on the other hand, the authorities face serious challenges in their efforts to effectively enforce the laws against graft.

Even when the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament makes “noise” on major corruption scandals where taxpayers have painfully lost billions of shillings, their reports rarely find space on the floor of Parliament.
The IGG’s annual reports are also gathering dust. They don’t seem to care. With this coldness, one may be forgiven to think that the ghosts of corruption that we see in government today are hidden in the corridors of Parliament. At this rate, if Speaker Rebecca Kadaga fails to convince MPs on the urgency to fight these ghosts, sooner or later, they may not spare any Member, including the opposition. I beg to move.


Flowers: Barack obama
The US Mission in Uganda this week gave Uganda an additional $23.5 million (Shs60.7b) to help in the fight against HIV/Aids. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention is providing six additional grants to Ugandan HIV/Aids service organisations. The five-year grants, awarded under the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, will help organisations providing comprehensive HIV/Aids support, care and treatment, and prevention services in support of the national HIV/Aids response. Flowers for you President Barack Obama.

Frowns: kawempe muslims ss managers
If somebody is said to be once bitten twice shy, it means that someone who has been hurt or who has had something go wrong will be far more careful than ever before. But this was not the case with the head teacher at Kawempe Muslim Secondary School. The school was closed on Thursday, after fire gutted a dormitory just days after another dormitory was burnt down. All this came before the school could recover from a violent students’ strike over maladministration. This is sheer negligence on the part of school authorities. Frowns for you Bwana Burhan Mugerwa, the head teacher, and your team.


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