On Saturday morning, June 19, presidential advisor Beti Kamya complained that her co-guest at a Top Radio talk show, legislator Balimwezo, was speaking too forcefully for her comfort.
Balimwezo has a big voice. Not a refined debater, he sometimes goes louder if you cannot see obvious truths.
Two perennial issues came up: Too many MPs and ministers, and horrendous corruption.
Balimwezo argued how a bloated Parliament and a bloated Cabinet hindered performance and caused Cabinet infighting, while increasing the taxpayers’ burden.
Old issues; old arguments. But how would a person just relegated from a minister to a presidential advisor respond?
Well, Beti Kamya supported the expenditure on ministers, claiming it was a very small portion of the national Budget. She estimated Shs50 million (at the most) per minister each month, including perks. In return, Museveni used the 81-member Cabinet to achieve a ‘balance’ between various interest groups.
Now, as his officials were stealing the Covid-19 relief aid, President Museveni once wasted people’s time demonstrating (on TV) how a family could share a small measure of maize flour. The President should have spent the time learning how to divide a small national cake.
Instead of being a national leader who can ‘balance’ about 30 ministers and demonstrate (on TV) why he has only 30, he is promoting a primitive sectarian concept of government. Even we, elders, now have a separate minister; as if Museveni did not already have enough elderly dead wood in his Cabinet. When we become senile, he may give us a minister for the senile; as if …
So, Beti Kamya was defending the incompetence behind this so-called ‘balancing’.
Her Shs50 million mathematics is also worth only two pennies. Why? A minister does not put on a yellow suit and sit alone on a brick in the park. Under Mr Museveni, most of those semi-redundant ministers mean pricy (and inflated) rented office space, furniture, office machines, support staff, motor vehicles, office consumption (paper, data, sanitisers, coffee, etc), off-station per diem, and all the NRM-era pretences that give redundancy a semblance of necessity. Over a five-year period, the average spending (because of one minister) is probably in hundreds of millions of shillings per month.
Although the ministry of Education should have a national plan for the construction and development of schools, Beti Kamya claims that she caused government to build a good school in her Kooki area. Is this influence peddling?
Anyhow, she says it cost Shs2.5 billion. Even using her Shs50-million mathematics, the government could build many more schools and equip more health facilities across the country by trimming Cabinet, Parliament, and the host of presidential advisors.
Incidentally, is a presidential advisor’s job for life, or are some kicked off the gravy train when new ones are appointed? What are the rules? Does Mr Museveni follow them? How often do presidential advisors meet the President? How many give him honest advice? Does he care?
On corruption, when Balimwezo wondered how a President fighting corruption could put Alice Kaboyo (of Global Fund fame) on his (pre-vetting) Cabinet list, Beti Kamya fled to a safe corner, babbling about petty street level and generalised corruption.
As you can see, the minister-turned-presidential-advisor on land is deceiving taxpayers about public expenditure and corruption, and she may not get many opportunities to tell the President the truth about land problems.
You now understand why MP Balimwezo’s forceful voice got so much louder, and why wiser presidential advisors hide and eat their loot in total silence.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.