Thursday, February 17, 2011
GOD HELP US DO AWAY WITH THE THIEVES
PRESIDENT ASKS FOR MORE MONEY FOR STATE HOUSE, DEFENSE, POLICE
On Dec. 8 President Yoweri Museveni and his cabinet met. On the agenda was one item; passing a request for supplementary budgets for State House, Ministry of Defense, Uganda Police and President’s Office. The four institutions – all closely linked to the president – are asking for Shs 380 billion in supplementary spending in the middle of the election campaign.
[President Museveni campaigns at Boma grounds in Arua. INDEPENDENT/PPU PHOTO]
State House specifically asked that the approvals be done “immediately” and, sources told The Independent, it was agreed that the request for the supplementary budget money be tabled before parliament on Dec. 17 for approval. Officials in the ministry of Finance worked round the clock to have the budget requests finalised. These supplementary budgets may have serious implications on the campaign
Interestingly, this financial year’s budget was only passed in November. So State House has been relying on what is called “Vote on Account” i.e. spending before approval by parliament. The new revelations show that State House exhausted its budget before it was even approved by parliament. With over six months left to the end of the financial year, it is possible it will ask for more before June 30, 2011.
Already, opposition politicians are crying foul. They say the supplementary budgets are aimed not at financing state expenditure but increasing Museveni’s campaign war chest.
“That the President can go on using public resources to campaign and even ask for more is a demonstration of what is wrong with the country,” Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) Secretary General, Joseph Bbosa, told The Independent.
“Museveni has no financial discipline; he always uses public money as he pleases,” said Wafula Oguttu, Spokesperson of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). He said he was neither surprised nor bothered, adding that FDC prefers to take the case of Museveni’s misuse of resources “to the court of public opinion that will sit on February 18, 2011”.
Highly placed sources told The Independent that President Museveni had held a meeting with Finance Minister Syda Bbumba at State House two weeks earlier. During the meeting, the president made a request for Shs 92 billion in supplementary spending. This is a 142 percent increase on State House’s original Shs 64 billion budget. The Independent has done research on all State House supplementary budgets for the last ten years and found this to be the highest ever.
During the meeting, Museveni also asked Bumba for another Shs 108 billion for the ministry of Defense, Shs 82 billion for the Police, Shs 83 billion for the Electoral Commission and Shs 8.4 billion for President’s Office.
Of the President’s office budget, the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) will take Shs 3.5 billion, External Security Organisation (ESO) Shs 1.8 billion, and the office of the Security Minister, Amama Mbabazi who is also Secretary General of the ruling National Resistance Movement, will take Shs 5 billion.
Parliament had already approved Shs 624 billion for Defense, Shs 253 billion for Police and Shs 120 billion for the Electoral Commission.
The Independent has learnt that when the matter was laid before cabinet, State House supplementary budget had grown by Shs 2 billion to Shs 94 billion showing the rapid growth in State House’s financial appetite. The new money State House wants is about twice its original allocation and will bring its allocation to Shs 158 billion.
Govt Gurus Have Stolen Shs 1.4 Trillion Since 1997
Corruption continues to keep Uganda in the news. Two weeks ago, the Anticorruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) published a list of big corruption scandals in the country since 1997 which have never been concluded or where the accused have never been held to account. The list drawn from media reports puts the total money swindled from public coffers at a staggering Shs1.4 trillion which is a quarter of Uganda's annual budget.
In the ongoing presidential campaigns across the country, each candidate is vowing to eliminate corruption. The ACCU Executive Director, Cissy Kagaba, urges Ugandans to vote out corrupt leaders and those who purport to fight corruption but do little or nothing about it.
Quantifying the services that Ugandans would have enjoyed if the money had not been stolen, Kagaba said that at Shs 15000 of a dose of Coartem for malaria, the stolen Shs 1.4 trillion would buy 94,189,650 doses of the drug. This would drastically reduce the drug shortages in public hospitals and reduce malaria related deaths that stand at 320 every day in Uganda.
If this money was used to pay primary school teachers it would pay 6,422,021 teachers at Shs 220,000 salary per month. Given that there are 124,630 teachers employed by the government, the Shs1.4 trillion would have paid salaries of all government teachers for four years.
An evaluation report by the Joint Assessment Framework which brings together the government of Uganda and some budget support partners valued the cost of building a classroom under the Universal Primary Education at Shs14 million. Therefore the stolen money since 1997 would have constructed 100,917 classrooms saving children from studying under trees and grass-thatched classrooms.
The same amount of money would have constructed 94,189 boreholes at Shs15 million per borehole thereby saving 44% of rural Ugandans, who have no access to clean and safe water, from water borne diseases.
The ACCU shows that the money stolen by corrupt officials since 1997 is higher by Shs100m than that of Ministry of Works and Transport, the ministry with the biggest budgetary allocation in the national budget.
The 2005 Global Fund mismanagement scandal is top with the biggest money lost. It's followed by the November 2007 CHOGM scandal. The ACCU says Shs660 billion was mismanaged in the Global Fund project which was meant to fight Malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB while Shs247 billion was stolen from the Shs500 billion budgeted for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The ACCU also cites the 1998 purchase of four junk M1-24 military helicopters by the Ministry of Defence where the country lost Shs11 billion.
In 1998 businessman Emma Kato and Gen. Salim Saleh, President Museveni's brother, were at the centre of the deal. Saleh facilitated the execution of the deal and received $800,000 off the transaction. A commission of inquiry into the purchase of the helicopters held that Saleh's US$800,000 amounted to a bribe. Museveni later said that Saleh had confessed to him that he had been offered a bribe in the purchase of the helicopters but that the president had advised him to use the money for the military operations against the LRA rebels in the north. The choppers had been bought to end the LRA insurgency. But upon discovering that the helicopters were not airworthy, the air force refused to fly them.
The commission's Chairperson Justice Julia Sebutinde recommended that Saleh, Kato and their associates in the scandal be prosecuted. But the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to charge Saleh. He charged Kato and brought Saleh as a state witness in the trial. Saleh's testified in favour of Kato and the latter was acquitted.
The ACCU observes that former minister of health Jim Muhwezi and his former junior health ministers Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha and State House aide Alice Kaboyo were briefly sent to jail over the mismanagement of the Global Fund money, but were released on bail. Their case has never been concluded in court since 2005. Other ministers Amama Mbabazi and Fred Omach were implicated in the Shs247 billion CHOGM scandal but were later exonerated by parliament on dubious grounds.
Parliament's action killed the morale to debate the Public Accounts Committee's report on abuse of CHOGM funds.
The staggering amount has been stolen despite several institutions appointed to fight corruption such as the Minister of Ethics and Integrity Nsaba Buturo, Inspector General of Government Raphael Baku, Anti-Corruption Court, Police and parliament among others.
This month the Dutch Ambassador to Uganda Jeroen Verheul announced that his country would cut its aid to Uganda by Shs10 billion due to the government's failure to punish officials implicated by the CHOGM report.
Last month the British also withheld Shs 27 billion in direct aid over the same reasons. Donors contribute 33% of Uganda's Shs7.3 trillion budget this financial year.
Transparency International has consistently ranked Uganda among the most corrupt countries in the world, a few places to top the table. The 2010 Global Corruption Barometer findings indicate that corruption in Uganda has increased over the last three years with one in four people having paid a bribe. According to this year's report people think that political parties are the most corrupt institutions followed by the police.
ACCU warns that in the next three or more years, taxpayers will have no option but to finance Uganda's debt of Shs89 billion for the additional funding to CHOGM.
Hosting CHOGM had initially been estimated to cost Shs270 billion but due to corruption, the amount shot to Shs500 billion.
Building on the theme 'Do not let Electoral Corruption Kill Democracy and Development' Kagaba urges voters: "Vote leaders who are neither corrupt nor condone and sympathise with the corrupt."
CORRUPTION CAN BE GOOD - MUSEVENI
Written by EDWARD SEKIIKA
Wednesday, 02 June 2010 20:02
President Museveni has said that while corruption leads to wastage of public resources, it also has a good side to it.
Speaking in Masindi last week, Museveni virtually defended corrupt civil servants and politicians, saying they also greatly contribute to national development by investing in the country money they swindle from public coffers. By thus investing, the President said, the thieves build the national economy.
The President was presiding over the passing out of 238 Police officers who had completed a three-month operational commanders’ course at the Kabalye-based Police Training School. The graduands included 46 officers from Sudan.
The opposition and donors have often criticised the Museveni government over what they see as lack of political will to fight corruption. The donors in particular have cited the misuse of money meant for the 2007 Commonwealth summit (CHOGM), and the Global Fund, among others, to make their point.
In Masindi, although Museveni directed the Police to crack down on corrupt officials, it was ultimately not clear how much he meant what he said because, in the same lecture, he turned around and defended corrupt government officials.
“In 1986 we inherited a very small resource envelope for the country—the country was collecting Shs 5 billion from tax, today we are collecting Shs 5,000 billion but much of it is [stolen] by corrupt civil servants and politicians,” Museveni said.
The President added: “These thieves also build the country, but in a disorganised way; they swindle money and build houses; yes, they are also contributing to the development of the country but in a disorganised way.”
Later on Saturday, while presiding over the 2010 CNN Multichoice African Journalism Awards at Kampala Serena Hotel, Museveni said corruption was not one of the strategic bottlenecks to development. He said there were some African countries that were run impeccably – the Christian type – that were still underdeveloped.
Museveni accused the Police force of being inefficient in investigating crime, especially corruption. He directed CID officers at all levels to work with the Auditor General’s Office to investigate cases of corruption and bring culprits to book.
“You deploy agents in health centres, to report public officials who are stealing our drugs. Why are you inefficient in this technological era?” Museveni wondered.
He said corruption had increased the cost of doing business in Uganda due to bribery. He said he had won the war on resources but is being let down by people who are swindling public resources. Besides bribery, the President said that investor confidence was affected by the Police’s failure to investigate other crimes such as murder.
However, officers blamed the inefficiency on few personnel in the force, saying they are often overhelmed by the volume of work. Museveni said he will recruit more Police officers after addressing national priorities such as electricity generation. Uganda, he said, has about 36,000 Police officers instead of the required 60,000.
“The Police, civilian ratio is supposed to be 1:500 (one Police officer per 500 people); going by our population you are still few, we shall increase the number but you should also be efficient,” Museveni said.
He added that government planned to recruit 16,000 temporary officers to Police the 2011 general elections.
The President also said that he is working to eradicate peasantry. “In our family, Mzee Kaguta is the last peasant, no more peasants in our family; we are still pursuing our goal of social economic development; future Ugandans will be either in middle class or skilled,” the President said.