Thursday, September 3, 2009

Some cases of grand corruption that just passed by

Uganda's decentralized political administrative system encourages pervasive corruption at all levels of government. Research shows that the manner in which the decentralization process was undertaken has led to an erosion of people's confidence in governmental bodies and to a deterioration of the quality of public infrastructure and services.

Although Uganda has an extensive legal framework and a net of agencies to curb corruption, implementation and enforcement of the existing legislation is weak, and several sources point to a lack of political will as a major obstacle in the fight against corruption. According to Global Integrity 2006, more than 10% of the annual government budget is lost to corruption each year, amounting to USD 300 million. This is confirmed by the World Bank (2005) estimates that Uganda loses about $300m (sh600 b) per year through corruption and procurement malpractices.

It reckons that the Government would save sh30b annually by eliminating losses from corruption in public procurement alone. In this regard, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority survey report (2006) estimates that a minimum of USD 150 million is lost each year to corruption in procurement alone.

Despite the recent increase in focus on corruption in Uganda, important government institutions, such as the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) and the judiciary, are still politically hampered, and their reports and recommendations are rarely heeded. Investigations are not well done to secure convictions and even the institutions mandated to fight corruption have been cited as the most corrupt according to the public perception under the National Integrity Survey. The Police, The Judiciary and other oversight institutions play an important role in the fight against corruption but when they are perceived to be corrupt, incidences of increased mob justice as well as public apathy is evident since there is expressed loss of public confidence in government institutions including DEI.

Uganda’s public sector payrolls are littered with the names of non-existent staff - otherwise known as "ghost workers". Money that could be going to Uganda's poor has gone instead, through these phantom civil servants, into the bank accounts of the corrupt. A wide-ranging audit, carried out by Government accounting officers, found that, out of 230,000 individual records, around 9,000 belonged to ghost workers. So far, a lot of money could have been saved by weeding out these false claimants.

A 2007 official review of NUSAF a five-year community driven programme to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in Northern Uganda from 2002 which was largely funded by the World Bank with a budget of 131.30 million dollars showed that money withdrawn from specially set-up bank accounts by local leaders exceeded the value of the work completed. In Kitgum district, the equivalent of about 1.2 million US dollars was not accounted for properly. This directly has an impact on the poor people who have been affected by the war for over twenty years. While the corrupt are using the proceeds from such social projects to build mansions, social service delivery remains a problem in that part of Uganda hence inequality in development.

The Auditor General’s Report (2007) expressed concern over the poor state of regional hospitals, some of which are as old as 70 years. “Most of the buildings are dilapidated with crumbling walls and ceiling. The sewage system cannot support the population. Theaters lack functioning equipment. The hospitals lack incinerators and mortuaries,” the report states. It further observed that many hospitals face a serious problem of expired drugs arising from drug procurements and donations that were not properly planned for. In Arua a sizeable number of ARV drugs were delivered two months after their expiry date. Mbale Regional Hospital received expired Zinc Oxide, while expired boxes of Aspirin and Panadol were delivered to Kabale Hospital. At Mulago Hospital, according to the report, procurements worth sh1.2b were made without the authority of the contracts committee. It also found several stores and containers full of expired drugs. This has direct implications on the right to health. While many Ugandans are dying of curable diseases, the corrupt take their kith and kin outside the nation to access better health services.

Some foreign affairs officials based at home are being paid warm clothing allowance, just like their staff posted to missions in cold climates, the audit found. Still at the foreign affairs ministry, the report said sh1b had been paid to officials in respect to air ticket and allowances without any evidence that the officials had actually traveled. Advances totaling to sh17b remained unaccounted for, contrary to the regulations which require that all advances be cleared by the end of the financial year. The health ministry had advances of sh7b by June 2007, Parliament sh3b, Finance sh2b, Defence sh1b and Makerere University sh786m.

In November 2007 Uganda hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Prior to this event, a lot of preparations were made and billions of shillings spent (UgX.247billion) on various activities, inter alia: accommodation beautification of the CHOGM venues and road works. Queries on the rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads commonly referred to as CHOGM roads, have since been raised on the manner in which the road works were tendered out, how the said roads were identified, the quality of works executed and accountability of the funds injected in the project.

The Ministry of Works, which was responsible for infrastructure and transport, is faulted for diverting UgX.8.5billion, on the Northern bypass. According to the Auditor General (AG) in his April 2008 special audit report into the CHOGM expenditure, “Evidence examined suggests that the dispute was caused by the failure by the project consultant to provide correct design specifications and the materials report. It is not clear, neither has a satisfactory explanation been given as to why the consultant was not made liable for the misrepresentation and hence the claim,” (Daily Monitor May 30, 2008). The AG also unearthed several anomalies on the road repairs under the infrastructure committee headed by Ministry of Works Permanent Secretary Charles Muganzi, which received UgX.91billion. Development of the infrastructure therefore still remains a challenge. Funds meant for projects like the Northern bypass are misused and shoddy work is evident.
For instance at the centre of the scandals is the repair of Kampala - Entebbe Road, this road started peeling off immediately after the repairs. Energo (U) Ltd, a Serbian firm, was contracted at the cost of UgX.6.7billion to repair and reseal a big part of the road but works commenced in April 2007, just six months to the event. However, the road started peeling off before CHOGM, forcing the contractors to do remedial work. After the remedial work, the firm asked for an additional UgX.1.6billion, bringing the total cost to UgX.8.3billion. The consultant, MBW Consulting Engineers who supervised the road, were paid UgX.275million. “It was observed that the quality of works was doubtful. Roads, which had just been repaired or reconstructed, had either developed potholes or ripping. An example was Entebbe Rd, which was done with bitumen surface dressing. The first section from Kampala up to Kisubi failed and had to be redone. But even after re-surfacing the road, some sections around Seguku, Kitende had stones stripped off at the time of our audit inspection,” the AG reports.

The Auditor general in the Ugandan government released the audit for the past financial year 2007/2008 before parliament. It’s so full of huge sums of money that has mysteriously disappeared, stolen, unaccounted for or requisitioned to purchase substandard items. The report notes mismanagement of public funds and offices right from the President’s own home, state house through to the different ministries of finance, health, defense, prisons and further to include Uganda’s missions abroad.
What makes the citizen to start developing a cold heart towards the so called “dignitaries” in this country is especially the in-human hearts eating away the little medical care towards the suffering Ugandans. From Anti-Retro viral (ARVs) drugs arriving few in number, expired and late to save lives to failure by the National Medical Stores (NMS) distributing the badly needed drugs in their stock in time all over the country. Worse is, NMS seeking for billions of shillings to destroy the now expired drugs in their stores after spending billions to bring into the country the same drugs. The dignitaries move around with bulging stomachs and look at the rest of the poor with contempt.

Another pair of senior government officials were embroiled in verbal fight with the Inspector General of Government over alleged fraudulent court settlements in which it is alleged the country lost a whooping Shs102 billion.

According to the Inspectorate of Government report (2008), 17 government officials were convicted and sentenced, seven tenders were cancelled and funds totaling shs 355,257,460,475/= saved, 59 officials were arrested, 126 officials were dismissed from government service and 52 other officials were either warned, reprimanded or demoted because of corruption cases. It should be noted that great determination is therefore required to make a real impact on the current levels of corruption and to move to a situation where corruption is a high-risk activity. The Directorate of Ethics and Integrity has a role to play to ensure that Ugandans get better service delivery through elimination of corruption.

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