Thursday, July 30, 2009

Enttebbe airport; who needs to know

It is quite intriguing to note the level of secrecy that surrounds certainso-called investment deals in this pearl of Africa. Who is in charge ofinvestments institutionally? Would any authority claim to be aboveconsulting with others on matters such as this, at least with the otherinstitutions of Government? I would wish to believe that the members ofParliament are lying to us when they say that they too have not beenconsulted. If however their claim is true, then this is not only veryserious, it is contemptuous of other institutions too.I am particularly intrigued that PPDA is silent on how this matter hascome this far and as it is within their mandate.

As such they arepresumably supportive to the architects of the deal or it would reasonablybe expected for one to believe that it is one of our usual Ugandaninstitutions that lie in wait for a postmortem.As Anti- Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU), we cannot sit on the fenceand so we wish to examine a few issues here with regard to levels oftransparency, boundaries of liberalization, and the sanctioning of thefeasibility plan estimated at US $1M at the expense of the investor.It is the considered view of ACCU that there are pertinent issues thatought to be clarified on: How was the deal conceived and planned? How didthat particular investor get the deal through? What are the parameterswithin which liberalization can operate, Is it boundless?

Does liberalization mean that anything can be put on the Ugandan market forsale? Is it under this frame work hat Uganda is acclaimed as a fastgrowing economy? Who sanctioned the feasibility plan that the investmentMinister is referring to?As Ugandan we surely have a moral claim and a stake in matters such asthis. An asset in question belongs to the public and is held in publictrust. The authority to dispose of or improved upon ought to be donetransparently and in consultation with the people.

For example, in matterssuch as this, one would expect the institutions of; Uganda InvestmentAuthority (UIA), PPDA, and Ministry for Investment, Parliament, Ministryof Works, and CAA to have been fully consulted with and consequentlysanction the deal.Once the deal has been sanctioned by the relevant bodies then there shouldbe a mechanism that provides for a competitive bidding so as to be able tocome up with the most suitable investor based on agreeable criterion. Butas it stands now and the level of contradicting statements that surroundsit makes it appear as if somebody is trying to circumvent the properprocedure.

And the question is: who is it? And in whose interest is it? As ACCU we are wondering about the invisible hand is in it that hasassumed the mandate of marketing and hand-picking for us a “suitable”investor if at all it is even necessary.I have also read a message that is attributed to the president in which hedenies any involvement or ever having sanctioned the deal, although heacknowledges having met the investors. The puzzle is where did theseinvestors come from? Should we take lightly the president’s denial?If our fears are well founded then does it mean that the institutions thatought to handle such matters only have nominal existence, but alsofunctional ones? If they function then who can address our concerns? Whythe inconsistency and secrecy about the deal?Liberalization is not the only answer to Uganda’s problems.

Our problem ismuch bigger and needs a broader approach than selling off all that wehave. In other analogies it has been compared to a poor man who chooses tosell off his legs so as to buy shoes. There is so much uncertainty thatperhaps no one can predict what is next on the line for liquidation inthis country. Is Uganda so poor and it’s the managers so incompetent thatwe always have to look to foreigners to manage the country on our behalf.In other words are our leaders passing a vote of no confidence on Ugandansand by logical inference on themselves? Perhaps we could privatize ourpolitical leadership since clearly that is the missing link!

The investment Minster admonishes Ugandans not to worry because it isgoing to be pure benefits for them. What a condescending and patronizingattitude. So Ugandans should trust him with the gambling of the buying andselling out of assets as they please. Please Hon. Minster, give us abreak. Don’t remind us of the pains of the memories of Apparel Tri-Star,Phoenix logistics or the Shimon Chogm Hotels. On the contrary, we shallnow need to be more vigilant than ever before.This is now an eye-opener about the new phenomenon called policy-corruption. By this I mean our leaders are intelligent enough to make lawsand policies that are intended to shield them in their future illegitimateactivities, because they know well that people may make recourse to thecourts of law. Recognizing this, they pre-empt this move and make laws inadvance to protect their conduct against litigation. The attitude isthat: We have the numbers, we shall pass the law that we will makereference to, to demonstrate how law abiding we are, so that they will notget us. Good governance is not about numbers!

It is about serving thepeople.The same actors can now preach the values of patriotism at the end of itall. Unfortunately, patriotism is lived not taught. Actions speaks speaklouder than words. At the end of the day we need to ask our selves whetherin our stewardship h people’s lives have improved. Whether we know whatmatters to them! This question can best be answered by analogy of Jesus athis time. He would ask those who went up to him for help: what do youwant me to do for you? And they would answer and say, I want you to …,Remember being who He was, he knew well what they needed from him, but Hestill had to consult with them. So then who was consulted over the Entebbeairport sale? And possibly it is too late to consult …not surely!

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