Sunday, April 25, 2010
It is not easy for a sitting President to leave the luxury of the office
According to Andrew Mwenda,Presidential pledges in Uganda by November 12 2008, stood at a record Shs 120 billion!
Government spent at least Shs 300 million per day to maintain President Museveni on official duty and his immediate family between July 2009 and December 2009, according to the National Budget Framework Paper (NBFP) for 2010/2011-2014/2015.
According to the NBPF, which looks at government’s expenditure over the past financial year and forecasts future spending, government spent Shs 54 billion in those six months and this includes providing for the President’s security detail, that of his family as well as his undisclosed welfare and logistical services.
And State House anticipates this figure to shoot to Shs 72 billion in the first six months of next financial year. Of the Shs 54 billion, Shs 11.6 billion was spent on logistical support and the President’s security, while Museveni’s countrywide tours to promote the Bonna Bagaggawale (Prosperity for All) programme in 33 districts cost the taxpayers Shs 7.7 billion.
State House, the figures indicate, spent Shs 10 billion to service the new presidential jet debt and to procure one principal and two support vehicles for the President.
This new jet, Gulf Stream 550, whose purchase generated public debate last year, was bought at a cost of $48.2million ( about Shs 88 billion).
During the six months, Shs 6.9 billion was spent on President Museveni’s visits to 17 countries, hosting of 10 heads of state, eight regional and international meetings, and hosting 17 foreign delegations.
The NBFP states that government also spent Shs 10 billion to enable Museveni attend 49 community functions and to facilitate State House payment of school fees for an undisclosed number of students. This is in addition to the Shs 1 billion used to renovate three state lodges and Shs 478 million to procure security, press and firefighting equipment.
Government’s expenditure on the presidency is likely to augment accusations that the President is living large at the expense of the taxpayer.
The Shs 300 million spent on the presidency a day is enough to pay salaries of about 150 Special Police Constables for a full year (with each earning about Shs 200,000 per month), or to build six decent classroom blocks at a cost of Shs 50 million each.
Yet it appears that this money is not enough. In January, State House lodged a supplementary budget request for Shs 18 billion, of which Shs 12 billion was to settle the outstanding debt arrears for the old presidential jet. Another Shs 350 million was required to pay allowances for staff on various duties.
The NBPF notes: “Within the available resources in the medium term 2010/11-2012/13, the sector through the Office of the President will continue to facilitate the presidency to enable it effectively execute its constitutional mandate and to manage the government policy and agenda…”
Compared with our richer neighbour, Kenya, according to their national budget of 2009/10, State House was allocated KShs 960 million (UShs 26 billion) for a full financial year to cater for President Mwai Kibaki’s household and other logistical support.
The Shs 26 billion includes money for maintaining the official residences of President Kibaki six State Lodges and State House Nairobi), for facilitating his 388 staff and the maintenance of 149 support cars.
This means that per day, the Kenyan government spent UShs 71 million to maintain Kibaki, four times less than the money Uganda spent to maintain its head of state a day.
Museveni’s Press Secretary, Tamale Mirundi declined to comment about the expenditure saying the budget is drafted by the Office of the President not Sate House.
President Museveni recently said in an interview with The Daily Monitor that his office deserves to be funded highly because he is the initiator and supervisor of major policies in the country.
“If you fund education but you do not fund this supervisor [Museveni], then what are you doing?” he retorted when asked about the large amount spent on maintaining him.
State House maintains a large security detail in addition to a large support staff. This expenditure on the presidency represents 24% of the total cost of public administration in Uganda, which at the moment stands at Shs 217 billion.
Next financial year, according to the NBPF, the cost is projected to increase to Shs 304 billion.
Budget priorities for 2010/2011
It is clear that the NBPF was drawn in tandem with the recently launched National Development Plan, which is supposed to be the key guide in the country’s pursuit of accelerated economic development. The five-year NDP is estimated to cost Shs 54 trillion.
According to the paper, Uganda is projected to spend Shs 6.3 trillion for the next financial year, Shs 300 million less than last year’s Shs 6.6 trillion.
The reduction is partly as a result of a decrease in allocation of resources to ministries such as that of Health, Works and Transport, Energy and Minerals, Tourism, Trade and Industry, and the legislature.
The Ministry of Works, which was allocated Shs 1.2 trillion last year, will get Shs 919 billion next year, while that of Trade which got Shs 47 billion, will now be given Shs 41 billion. The Ministry of Health allocated 737 billion in 2009/10, will get Shs 636 billion next financial year.
The Ministry of Education will be the highest funded entity next financial year, having been allocated Shs 1.1 trillion, a marginal increase from the Shs 1 trillion it received last year. The Ministry of Defence has been allocated Shs 488 billion, up from Shs 487 billion last year.
For the second year running, the Ministry of ICT has been allocated the least funds, Shs 11 billion, a nominal increase from Shs 9.5 billion it received last financial year.
The paper outlines five major areas of emphasis next financial year. They include infrastructure development (roads) and energy, promotion of science and technology, enhancing agricultural production, private sector development and improving public service delivery.
African leaders still hostage to Stone Age politics
Wednesday, 12 November 2008 00:00 (The Independent)
Presidential pledges in Uganda today stand at a record Shs 120 billion. These are promises of assistance the president makes to different groups, individuals and institutions and are paid for by the state. They have been accumulating over the years, some for over a decade. Intended beneficiaries have waited for years only to see their hopes frustrated.
Presidential pledges are a primitive system of patronage. If a sub-county lacks a clinic or school, it should get it as a personal favour from the president. That should be a function of government policy through the national budget. Yet President Yoweri Museveni is not alone in sustaining this system. It is practiced by many of his contemporaries across Africa. These pledges reflect the neo-patrimonial nature of politics on our continent.
The word “neo-patrimonial” comes from Max Weber’s concept of “patrimonial rule”. Weber was referring to governance in small and traditional pre-capitalist European principalities where decision-making was highly personalised and arbitrary. The state in Africa is neo-patrimonial because it combines the formal structure of a modern bureaucratic state with informal and highly personalised rule where informal practices trample over formal rules; presidential donations disregard the budget.
Karl Marx argued that the way people organize themselves to solve their basic economic challenges – how to clothe, house and feed themselves – requires a “superstructure” of non economic activity and thought. The superstructure cannot be picked randomly, Marx reasoned, but must reflect the foundation on which it is raised. For Marx, therefore, no hunting community could evolve or use the legal framework of an industrial society and similarly, no industrial society could use the conception of law and government of a primitive hunting village.
From this perspective, many scholars on Africa have argued that presidents on the continent are captives of the social forces around them. By presiding over largely agrarian societies, presidents cannot avoid ruling like African chiefs of old – for example Nyungu ya Maawe of the Nyamwezi, Jaja of Opobo or Kabaka Junju of Buganda. Museveni is only a reflection of his society’s level of social development.
But Marx was broader in his grasp of these issues. Although many people consider him a structuralist – a lot of his arguments reflect this tendency – he also recognised the role of agency in social change. He noted, for example, that when economic conditions change, so do social institutions through the catalytic function of ideas. Although Africa has remained largely agrarian, a significant part of our economic, political and intellectual life has changed. We should be able to register some change.
Only President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has attempted to banish this neo-patrimonial politics from his leadership style. He makes pledges but only of a symbolic nature. Thus, when Kagame attends a fundraising, he will make a token promise – say of a goat or of US$ 200 – only to meet social expectation. If a community has no clinic or a school has fewer classrooms, the matter is addressed through government policy and the national budget. This way, Kagame has avoided the Nyungu ya Maawe mentality.
President’s office is under clear instructions to meet his pledges within 60 days of making them. Everyone around the presidency in Kigali will tell you that failure to do so has serious consequences. Thus, there are no communities, individuals and groups in Rwanda frustrated that a presidential pledge was not met.
Rwandans therefore consider their president an honest man and trust his word. Even his worst enemies will admit this. Save for his authoritarian style, Kagame has defied many retrogressive African political practices. The lesson: although Africa’s agrarian social structures are obdurate, there is room for agency i.e. a committed leadership can alter them and modernise our continent’s governance.
One gets the sense that Kagame has a highly cultivated sense of shame. He is clearly afraid to be seen to say one thing and do another. Possibly he falters sometimes. But there is a clear and sustained effort to exhibit a high level of integrity in his actions. Yet the opposite seems the case in Uganda. Museveni makes little or no effort to ensure that his promises are fulfilled suggesting the president is a liar. Even the people of Luwero who financed his guerrilla war with promises of compensation still gather outside parliament – 20 years later – to claim their money.
The inability of Museveni to keep his word speaks volumes about his moral character. The list of his empty promises goes beyond presidential pledges. In 1986, he promised to rule for only four years and hold elections. Instead he extended his rule by another five years which later turned into six. People began to question his integrity. In 1996, he made an unequivocal promise not to run for a second term, which he breached without apology or explanation. In 2001, he promised that he was running for his last term in order to organise “peaceful succession.” Instead, he amended the constitution to remove term limits and ended up succeeding himself.
This deficit in Museveni’s moral character will have powerful consequences on his legacy and on Uganda’s progress. Julius Nyerere presided over a declining economy and an authoritarian state in Tanzania for 24 years. Yet Tanzanians hold Nyerere in high esteem. Reason: whatever mistakes he made, his citizens felt Nyerere made them in an honest attempt to do good for Tanzania. On the other hand, Museveni has presided over a fairly democratic government and a rapidly growing economy that has brought prosperity to many. Yet he may not enjoy Nyerere’s status. Why?
Museveni’s sustained failure to project a high level of integrity has undermined his moral standing even among those closest to him. Many around him indulge in theft possibly because they have no moral bar against which they can hold themselves. The public too have limited faith in the integrity of our president. When he gives an investor a piece of land or forest purely for developmental reasons, people suspect he is doing so out of some pecuniary interest. They resist. The lesson: It is not the so much that leaders do, but what the public thinks were their motivations, that makes them great.
President Museveni, patronage only perpetuates corruption
2009-11-05, Issue 456
I was intrigued by press reports that President Yoweri Museveni has given Shs 1 billion (Ugandan shillings) to buy buses. The story reported that that money was part of the Shs 2 billion pledge the president made to the ex-legislators' Sacco to improve their welfare. While it is alright to get concerned about the former MPs’ welfare, we need to ask a number of questions: Did the President draw that money from his personal account or was it drawn from state coffers? If he withdrew it from his personal account, how does he intend to recoup it? Is it only former legislators whose welfare needs to be improved or other citizens who don’t merit the attention of the president? The president and his lieutenants have vowed to crush corruption, but is this possible when he is busy dishing out patronage to his clients? Has anybody told the president that if he has drawn that money from state coffers, his action is tantamount to and props up corruption? If no one has told him, I would beg to inform the president that what he is doing is a naked abuse of office and the worst form of corruption.
Our country has suffered a great haemorrhage of funds. Only a few days ago the state-owned newspaper The New Vision reported that Shs 370 billion had been spent on Chogm (Commonwealth heads of government meeting). I am one of the few Ugandans that questioned on air what benefit an ordinary Ugandan such as my mother would get from Chogm after the country had injected in lots of money. The sceptics are now being vindicated after all and it is now being revealed that Chogm cost us far greater sums of money than we were told before. Ugandans are dying of famine, higher education has been reduced to the preserve of a few as fees in public institutions have been overly hiked, and our country is being turned into a man-eat-man society. It is ironical that those who were preaching Marxism before capturing power have now turned into far-rightists hell-bent on promoting individual welfare instead of the common good.
Ugandans must stop their complacency and begin asking tough questions such as what is it that we benefit from our taxes? Why is it that the leaders who preached frugality have become wanton big spenders? Could it be the disease of overstaying they diagnosed upon capturing power has caught up with them? I strongly pray that day in, day out Ugandan elites keep reminding our dear president of his 1986 inaugural speech and his book, 'What is Africa’s Problem?' I know like my area the Honourable MP Otafiire has always said, 'ebibagamba nibanyuka tibyo bagamba nibataha' ('what they say while making local brew is different from what they do while drawing it'), but our leaders need to be told that not all Ugandans are too daft.
Uganda has a miniscule number of university graduates. And besides, most of these have no jobs and the government is always telling them to create their own. Why did former MPs, who were earning huge sums of money, fail to create their own jobs and resort to continue sucking state coffers?
Could the money dished to former MPs be a reward from the president for having struck out the constitutional provision which limited the president to two five-year terms, hence giving Mr Museveni a green light to rule the country ad infinitum? I am asking all these questions while well aware that the president never used his own money, because he has never declared all that huge wealth as per the leadership code. Accordingly, I am fully convinced that the president used our taxes to reward former MPs, some or most of whom could not retain their seats as a result of non-performance, at least according to voters’ standards. Assuming many lost because of non-performance, should the president continue rewarding non-performers?
I have argued time and again that the unemployed in Uganda are not those with skills but the highly educated. I know of many first class and second upper graduates who fail to get jobs because jobs are given on patronage and the unfortunate graduates have no godparents because they are from humble families. These people have chosen to write coursework for others in order to make ends meet. Others have chosen to do printing business and are busy forging O level, A level and university documents. And the NRM (National Resistance Movement) government deludes itself that it is fighting corruption!
Last year on 6 April 2008 when I was hosted on UBC TV with Hon. Charles Bakabulindi, I said the government was sitting on a time-bomb because of graduate unemployment. I am happy now the government has seen it. Sadly, the NRM takes too long to learn and learns the hard way. I doubt whether they would have deciphered that had it not been for the events of 10–12 September 2009, which claimed the lives of more than 20 people. Now the government clearly knows that unemployment can push people into frustration and hopelessness, which ultimately results in a wave of criminality. The truth of the matter is that we have a minute number of genuine university graduates but we have too many people with academic papers. I have advised the NRM government to order all employers to verify the documents of their employees, but the government has chosen to keep a deaf ear. Personally, I am tempted to believe that maybe the NRM is the one that sends the criminals to forge documents and use them to obtain jobs for which they are not qualified. If that is not the case, I demand an explanation as to why the government doesn’t crack down this grave form of corruption.
In 2001, corruption was a big campaign tool against Museveni. This time I call upon the opposition to use corruption, unemployment and the denial of higher education to the poor as tools to dislodge Museveni. I would also expect Museveni to give accountability for the proceeds of all our parastatals that he sold. We have become so complacent that the state house tenants now take the state to be their personal property. I don’t know how many times I have been illegally arrested, detained and tortured. Right now I am undergoing a malicious prosecution and my crime was writing a letter to the president complaining about tuition increment in Makerere University. Each time I am arrested, my property is stolen by the police and to date I have never recovered anything. I have a case against the state in the High Court but I guess there is a deliberate effort to frustrate it. I would pray that the president explains why the blatant abuse of my rights and freedoms continues unabated. I also call upon all the human rights defenders to be concerned about my plight because just like Martin Luther Jr said, 'injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere'. I know Museveni fears those armed with the pen and the microphone as opposed to those armed with the gun, but I would pray that he heeds the constructive critical voices rather than heeding destructive praise singers.
I have a problem with the Ugandan opposition parties because they rarely address critical issues. For instance, I was jailed for opposing the inexplicable hike of university fees but scarcely did the opposition address this issue as serious. I wish the opposition parties would have think tanks and research desks to help them address critical national issues. Only then shall we look at them as viable alternatives.
President Museveni and the NRM should know that we have a new generation of voters which we may call 'Generation X'. This generation shall not be fed on deception and manipulations of bringing peace and stability. This generation of voters wants jobs, education, good roads and an assurance that the country belongs to them. This generation shall not be duped by money, and we are busy sensitising it that if money comes its way, it should not be spared. We are ready to chew the money and do the needful. We shall never see any university graduate languishing on the streets if jobs were given on the basis of a meritocracy and not patronage–clientelism. Finally, the MPs fleece the taxpayers too much when they are in parliament; they shouldn’t be allowed to continue after losing their seats. For God and my country!
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* Vincent Nuwagaba is a political scientist and human rights defender.
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