What you need to know:
- Sometimes one wonders whether these agencies are really (not) misusing public resources.
On one of his routine (ir) regular appearances at Kasese Central Police Station over a ‘small incident’ that took place in 2017, Kasese District engineer was put under formal arrest and taken to Kampala. That day police produced him in a Kampala court on charges of graft (and some such other things).
In 2017, the engineer is said to have requisitioned for a ‘force account’ instrument under which his department would construct a bridge. The payment process went on smoothly until it reached Ms Margaret Muhindo, the Chief Financial Officer. She signed but (later) told his supervisor (Chief Administrative Officer) that she was signing under duress and begged him not honour her signature on the payment voucher.
The CAO alerted the district chairperson. The district chairperson had been having issues with his vice (who was involved in scam). The district chairperson saw this as an opportunity to strike at his deputy. He reported the matter to police.
Things escalated and reached the Resident State Attorney’s office. After perusal of the police file, the State Attorney called the district chairperson. He counselled: “Since there is so far no loss of funds, can we let this matter end here?”
But the district chairperson was not going to be cheated of the opportunity to avenge an infraction the vice chairperson visited on him. So, he spat at the State Attorney’s counsel. “I am the complainant and you want me to inadvertently withdraw my complaint? No. I can’t.”
For the crime committed in 2017, the district engineer, former district vice chairperson and others appeared in court in July 2022. They are out on bail.
In a typical Shakespearean plotting, there are many sub-plots in that story. There is the conflict between the chairperson and his vice; the attempted theft of public funds by the engineer; the freezing of the file for about five years; and the attempt by the State Attorney to ‘manage stuff’.
When I was still on the radio and TV talkshow circuit, it was not uncommon that Beti Kamya and I would appear on the same show. She is now the Inspector General of Government and I live in near anonymity in Kiburara.
A very idealistic person, Kamya is; and brainy too. So, I was not surprised that she is pursuing a new approach to fighting graft; return the stolen resources and then we can see what to do. She has secured an agreement from Ministry of Agriculture officials to refund funds they had embezzled.
On the other hand, Brig Gen Henry Isoke runs the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SHACU). A calm and collected purposeful guy, Isoke is a very wide contrast to the abrasive Col Edith Nakalema (the first head of the unit).
Unlike Kamya, SHACU is more inclined to finding criminal fault. This approach may get SHACU visibility but with the depth of corruption in Uganda, SHACU will have to be more innovative and creative.
As I write this, three state oversight agencies are in Kasese investigating corruption. There is SHACU, IGG and the Auditor General. The particulars of the cases the three agencies are investigating are the same. And all the cases originate from the same whistle blower.
Sometimes one wonders whether these agencies are really (not) misusing public resources. When investigating, there is always a need for some hypothetical question that ends to be resolved. And that hypothetical question must be subjected to the rigours of impassioned and impartial interrogation.
Otherwise, these interrogators end up spending taxpayers money on a case such as that of Kasese District engineer which was triggered by a misunderstanding between the district chairperson and his vice.
Mr Asuman Bisiika is the executive editor of the East African Flagpost.