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Hell’s angels await Uganda’s corrupt; when do they arrive?

Apart from invoking the ghosts of 1986, the thing that President Museveni never tires of is fulminating against the corrupt.

In the three speeches he gave in one week — State-of-the-Nation June 4, Heroes Day June 9, and Budget Day June 11 — he was in his element again.

In the State-of-the-Nation speech, he derided a key government institution in the fight against corruption.

“Incredibly, three days ago, a group answering to the description of the so-called Financial Intelligence Authority [FIA] had closed their bank accounts claiming that they did not know where their money was coming from and what it was doing.”

The FIA earned the presidential ire for doing its job: inquiring into the financing sources of Dei-Pharma, a company that, as Mr Museveni tells it, “will make any and all the medicines the country needs and even export”.

We may recall that Dei has the good support of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and was in the news in March for claims about some chemical that can effectively tackle Covid-19 or some such stuff.

While Mr Museveni railed against FIA for being too dumb or too corrupt to not be able to easily establish that Dei was getting its financing from “African Banks such as Equity Bank of Kenya” — as if that in itself makes the source of the money impeccable — his Finance minister a week later was saying something else.

The President and the minister spoke at cross-purpose.

One of the anti-corruption measures minister Matia Kasaija outlined was the enhancement of the “capacity of the Financial Intelligence Authority … to intensify surveillance and [gathering] of vital information to curb Anti-money laundering and terrorism financing”.

Corruption, or the fight against it in Uganda, is a fascinating subject, and not only because our corrupt deserve eternal time in hell.

In his remarks on Budget Day on Thursday, Mr Museveni, referring to recent senior staff changes at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), said: “There has been a lot of corruption in URA ... That one I have cleaned as we shall clean some of the other places. Wherever there is corruption, we shall get you like we cleared the URA crowd.”

Clean up URA (I thought after the Justice Julia Sebutinde inquiry ages ago URA was super-duper clean, but I guess relapse is always possible) then rest on your laurels. Wake up and try police, then relax and a relapse happens. Sleep on the job again. Then get roused to try lands. Establish an anti-corruption unit at State House, then after a few months warn the unit to not be zealous and make mistakes.

The approach is ad hoc in the extreme. The people in government who have appetite for stealing public money and other resources understand this all too well. They see the dynamic where mzee jumps from office to office firing one or two people and crowing about it. So they take their chances, hoping that given the snail and lackadaisical pace, by the time he gets to their office they will have retired or resigned of own volition with their loot. So they loot.

How about Mr Museveni tried something different: launch a system-wide sweep from top to bottom in one fell swoop. Remove all the corrupt, prosecute, and jail them. This would shock the bureaucracy enough — of course ensuring that the replacements are men and women of integrity.

Even the guardians of hell would welcome such a China-like move. The parasites would have a place in the hottest spot. And the rest of Ugandans would live happily ever after.

This article was published on The Daily Monitor.

Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.


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