So the Commission of Inquiry into the management of Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) established that the road agency cumulatively lost four trillion shillings over a period of seven years.
It is quite disturbing to know that this humongous amount was lost to white and blue collar fraudsters, some of who are entrusted with the responsibility to protect government assets on behalf of the people of Uganda.
There is no doubt that corruption in Uganda is endemic and the depth of this can be exemplified by President Yoweri Museveni’s State of the Nation Address, in which he even castigated his ministers for asking for bribes from foreign investors.
Suffice to say; despite voicing his concern over corruption on very many occasions, this was the second time Mr Museveni was publicly ridiculing his officials in regard to the gravity of corruption in Uganda, the first having been done in Kigali, Rwanda, where he decried the rampant theft that crippled government programmes in Uganda.
Indeed, to his credit, on all the many occasions he has spoken out against corruption, the President has threatened to deal with wayward officials involved in the vice. But if the findings of the Justice Bamugemereire UNRA Commission are anything to go by, then his efforts have been clinically circumvented by the fraudsters, who seem to enjoy unlimited powers of being protected.
Uganda has some of the best anti-corruption laws in the region, and the country is also home several institutions that were established to fight and contain corruption namely: the Anti-corruption court, the Inspectorate of Government, the CIID, and the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) and Uganda Revenue Authority among others. In fact, some of the institutions’ roles seem to overlap!
However, it seems that the individuals at all these institutions that are charged with the duty of ensuring the safety of the tax payers money have failed to nail the real thieves of public funds, instead choosing to always parade the ‘small fish’. And the game goes on.
But questions abound: where do these thieves keep their loot? Do they siphon the money out of the country? If so, then how do they do it? All these questions and many more need answers if the country is to tackle the issue of corruption effectively.
Lastly, as a deterrent, there is need to operationalize the seizure of properties of those found culpable for corruption as the move will instill fear in these thieves.
That way we can even begin talking about achieving a middle-income status by 2020.