We live in a weird country, full of people who carry out drab actions that have cost the tax payer billions of shillings through unmitigated corruption. And, by their actions on Tuesday this week, some members of the Ugandan Parliament appeared drab, in respect to a pension scam involving Shs15 billion.
The pension sector in Uganda needs no introduction; it has turned into cash cow for civil servants and rogue private citizens. And billions are lost in heists that seem non-ending, yet we have MPs that seem detached from any actions that can curb the loss tax payers’ money to con artistes.
Recently, while appearing before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament city lawyer Bob Kasango admitted he had pocketed Shs7.8 billion taxpayers’ money, meant for pensioners. He promised to repay the swindled money, and the PAC MPs just looked on as ‘Mr Moneybags’ talked of refunding cash that almost equals their collective monthly perks. The MPs just allowed him to go home, yet PAC has detectives attached to the committee, who should have been ordered to detain Kasango, pending further inquiries.
But for PAC, Kasango’s appearance before them was just a ritual, never mind that he admitted committing a felony. Interestingly, Kasango also told the PAC members that a High Court Judge, John Eudes Keitirima, had asked for a bribe of Shs500 million, to ‘smoothen’ the path to hemorrhage the 7.8bn. While that may be true, Kasango as a lawyer must know that ‘he who asserts, proves’. So, in as far as the bribery claims are concerned, the ball lies squarely in his court, to prove that Keitirima is a ‘rogue’ Judge, not fit to hold such an esteemed judicial office in Uganda, or elsewhere in the world.
But be that as it may, there are quite a number of questions to be asked, though: Can Ugandans trust this crop of Parliamentarians to make the Executive account when the legislators cannot even make just a simple lawyer accountable for his criminal acts? Was Kasango’s admission before PAC to the commission of a crime in the form of a ‘Plea Bargain’? From which vote was this money drawn and who, in the Attorney General’s Office, authorized the payment? And, in case Kasango is to pay back the money, in which names will he write the cheque? Or is he going to pay back in cash? In any way, is it possible that the ‘Bill of Costs’ in any matter of litigation can be half of the total sum payable? This whole Kasango/pension saga stinks!
Recently, Senior Counsel Prof George Kanyeihamba brought to light the issue of corruption in the courts of Uganda and also within his fellow lawyers’ fraternity. He even submitted to Chief Justice Bart Magunda Katureebe a ‘List of Shame’, of the allegedly corrupt judicial officials. Nothing much has been heard from the CJ ever since but if the judicial sector in this country wants to purify its contestable public image, it must act now! This Pension Scam matter deserves the critical intervention of the Ministry of Justice Uganda, the High Court, the Uganda Law Society (ULS), the Law Council and the Police.
That said, it is quiet disturbing that this country has suffered from the hemorrhaging of pension funds because this money is supposed to pay some old men and women who rendered invaluable service to Uganda.