A number of years ago, Nobert Mao, made a very adept statement on corruption. He said: “A fish starts to rot from the head.” Not that the fish-eating Ugandans were not aware of the natural phenomenon, but that it was a reminder of the country’s state of affairs.
Recently a political pundit added to that saying. He said, “If you boil a rotten fish with a fresh one in the same pot, the source will smell rotten.”
This came to mind in the wake of the recent NRM Kyankwanzi retreat, which adopted the position that from now onwards, the Internal Security Organization (ISO), and its sister, the External Security Organization (ESO), operatives would oversee the corruption activities in the country. Added to this is the announcement that even the officials of the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), who are posted to all the counties of the country will join in this crusade.
The argument that has been posed is that the endemic practice of stealing public funds and assets is prevalent in the Local Governments. That is as it maybe, but the amounts of stolen money and public assets are admittedly small compared to the massive stealing of funds and assets at the center.
This is not to condone the theft at the Local Government levels; rather it is to put an accurate and balanced picture of the scale of the utter moral decay that has bedeviled this country for now three decades.
The local appendages of a number of ministries have been mentioned. These involve the ministries of: Health, Education and Sports, Agriculture and Fisheries, Energy, Works and Housing, Lands and Urban Development and of course, the ministry of Local Government, proper.
If one takes some of these ministries, the huge thefts have been at the center, here in Kampala. The infamous Global Fund for Aids and Tuberculosis and the GAVI donor funds from the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, happened at the center. Some of the stolen money of course, trickled to the outlying areas of the ministry in the countryside.
The on-going investigation into the massive theft of funds in the ministry of Works involving the Katosi Road, was done essentially at the headquarters at The Yard. It involved very senior officials of the ministry.
Admittedly, some minor engineers also benefitted from up-country stations. The officers of the ministry of Local Government, who were arrested and convicted of theft a few years ago, were those at the headquarters in Kampala.
The case of the junk helicopters and the ill-fitting uniforms did not take place up-country. And the classic case that is still appearing in the Press frequently involves the Office of the Prime Minister here, in Kampala.
It concerns the former Principal Accountant, Geoffrey Kazinda. He was not up-country; and when he used to go to England to attend the largesse of the Premier League matches, flying to and from here, it was not to a local village soccer tournament. The financial drain on the public coffers was massive.
If anyone wants a detailed picture of the sluice under which the public funds and assets are being sieved off, they can simply go to the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda; and they will get an accurate picture.
Indeed, in its Black Monday publication, they used to statisticize the loss of the public funds and assets. And very few of those cited have been brought to book, especially the big fish.
As much as these ministries are to blame, no mention has been put on the prime ministry that releases these funds, the ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs; and the Bank of Uganda, that processes them to the Local Governments. Why is this?
Dictator Idi Amin at one point sent out non-commissioned officers as county chiefs, because he did not trust the regular civil servants who were occupying those positions. Chaos followed. In the county of Toroma, in the-now Katakwi District, his officer, Staff Sergeant Solo, caused such mayhem, as he went around executing people who were reported as witches and wizards. The outcry was palpable to the extent that even that hard man had to withdraw his henchman.
Who will reign in the ISOs and OWC officers from causing vendettas among the people? There is a good possibility that these officers will forget to be mere “Eyes” and “Hands-Off”, and become the real implementers of the anti-theft decisions without referring the cases to “The Above”. And how accountable is this?