Uganda: Cabinet Reshuffle - No Plans to Recover Stolen Funds?



By Victoria Nyeko


The recent long a waited Cabinet reshuffle left seven prominent ministers without lucrative salaries. According to Daily Monitor headlines on Monday December 16, 2019, 'Why Museveni fired seven key ministers,' some political commentators say several ministers lost their positions due to various corruption allegations. While others believe President Museveni, who is also the NRM ruling party chairman, is simply executing a mobilisation strategy to secure sixth elective term in office in 2021.


Some of the prominent senior government ministers left out of Cabinet after many years of service include Energy minister Irene Muloni, Ntege Azuba of Works and Transport, Janat Mukwaya of Gender and minister without Portfolio Hajj Abdul Nadduli.


In 2016, there were allegations of corruption at the Ministry of Energy and the mis- appropriation of public funds, money meant for construction of Isimba and Karuma hydro-electricity dams. Although Parliament formed investigation committees to probe the matter, the outcome and decisions on further actions remain unclear.


In November 2019, there were yet more corruption allegations at the Ministry of Energy. The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga expressed concerns about the loss of Shs24b allocated as part of Isimba Dam project, including a bridge construction between Kayunga and Kamuli districts.


There are rumours that some of those left out of Cabinet have acquired unexplained amounts of wealth, with different high value rental properties in several parts of the country and even built prominent hotels.


Prior to the Cabinet reshuffle, about 10 days earlier on the December 4, 2019, President Museveni in a speech at the Anti-Corruption walk celebrations for the first year of State House Anti-Corruption Unit Anniversary said: "Corrupt people are parasites because they get wealth which they did not earn and political leaders must end the vice by organising the economy in such a way that ordinary people can meet their needs."


In other parts of the world where there have been allegations of corruption involving large amounts of public funds, mismanagement by government ministers, stringent investigations would normally follow and money recovered back into the public resource envelope.


In 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari's big campaign message was fighting corruption in government, particularly among politicians. Therefore, once elected into office, in 2017 the first big anti-corruption government recovery of misappropriated funds was approximately $153.3m from former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison Madueke.


He was also arrested in London on allegations of money laundering and according to Nigerian Anti-corruption agencies, misappropriated funds under Madueke's tenure in office were seized from three different local banks in the country. The former minister legally, "temporarily forfeited" money seized and the judge immediately gave any interested parties 14 days in which to make their claims before all the funds would be turned over to the Nigerian government.


For other politicians and government ministers, it was agreed that if stolen public funds are returned to government coffers through the Anti-corruption agencies, then the identities of the corrupt politicians would not be publically shared. Therefore, in exchange for immunity, more than $9.1b stolen money has been successfully recovered.


According to 2015 Uganda Parliament report, in the last 10 years, it is estimated that that Uganda has lost more than Shs24 trillion to corruption including unrecovered funds.

It is possible that corrupt politicians will continue to frustrate foreign investments, remain a big influence on State budgets while increasing poor service delivery for Ugandans indefinitely, for as long as there are no effective recovery mechanisms for stolen public funds.


Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.

nyeko.victoria@yahoo.com


This article originally appeared on The Daily Monitor.

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