If you are a government official, especially one that is an accounting officer, kindly be interested in your kid’s homework. Not because I want you to be a good parent. It’s also not bad. But because that homework might be the whistle that blew your cover. See, the new IGG, the Hon Betty Olive Namissango Kamya Turwomwe (BoNKT) intends to use your children to help identify those that have done magic multiplication of their wealth.
“We will ask the children at school to take pictures of their homes and the cars their parents drive among others. We shall use these in addition to bank records, information from the Lands Ministry on land ownership, Ministry of Works for car imports, KCCA plan approval details and other sources of information to identify those who have money they can’t explain,“ she said at the National Association of Broadcasters NAB AGM where she was a special guest.
She went on: “I know the salaries of these government workers. They will have to explain how they have gotten all these assets using their salary. If they can’t, we will prosecute them and confiscate their assets. We shall see how a clerk at court will explain the mansion they are staying in or the land worth billions.”
The IGG insisted that she has already lined up 200 accounting officers including the staff of her office who will have a lifestyle audit done on them and their relatives starting immediately. “We are starting with Permanent Secretaries PS, Chief Administrative Officers CAOs and Town Clerks. These are the ones in charge of the government coffers. You keep asking that we get the big fish. You say Honorable, catch the big fish. But these fish are elusive. They don’t leave any trails. They don’t sign anywhere. They get their cuts without any trace. We arrest them, take them to court but can’t get incriminating evidence. They walk scot free. But these accounting officers are responsible for the money. We will start with them and see. They have to explain their lifestyle.”
With this, she hopes to turn around the over 10 trillion Uganda Shillings lost annually through corruption. Kamya sounded confident that this is the magic button together with a crusade to have everyone involved in this war against corruption. “We don’t want the corruption war to be about politicians and government officials. We don’t even want it to be about anti-corruption organizations. These people aren’t the victims of corruption. If anything, they are corroborators or at the very least, mercenaries of the corruption war. They exist because of corruption and they are not the biggest victims of the corruption. The victims are the wanainchi. The ones that can’t find drugs in hospitals.The ones that have to take their kids to UPE schools and the classrooms are in terrible conditions. All this is because of corruption.“
She seems to have it all planned with figures and passion. “We lose 10 trillions a year to corruption. Imagine what this would do for each village. We have about 10,000 villages in this country. If all this money was saved. Imagine how your villages would be. Each village would have 1 billion shillings per year extra in the parish model. Imagine what a billion a year would do in a village! One year, the village would easily get piped water to every home, the next year, electricity to every home, the third year, laptops and internet for every school going child, the fifth year, a health centre complete with a doctor’s house.”
I could see the audience nodding. The message sounds great but clearly, for most, it entered through one year and passed through the other because corruption is endemic here. It’s everywhere. We live literally by corruption. It’s not the officers that stop us at police checks that are corrupt simply because they ask for drinking water or sanitizer instead of driving permits or the teacher that never gets to work much as they have been paid a salary but the whole system stinks of corruption.
Even the private sector. The cook will inflate the prices of vegetables. The cleaner will take toilet paper. The supplier of liquid soap will deliver diluted liquid soap and the askari will leave with some sanitizer. All this affects the bottom lines. This makes products and services more expensive and everyone suffers.
Recently, UNBS released a list of non-compliant petrol stations and strangely some of those on the list were stations belonging to strong institutions such as the church. When I asked, I was told there would have been many more but the officers who come to check the pumps are simply on a correction spree. So your calibration is only accurate or not depending on how you oil the palms of the officers. This, I couldn’t verify but can’t be surprised. After all, I realize my tanks fill with varying amounts of fuel depending on where I go. One time, I ran out of fuel, went to a petrol station and paid for 5 liters of diesel. They dispensed it into a translucent jerrycan and it didn’t hit the 5-liter mark. I complained and the attendants only pushed me away saying I was not even supposed to get fuel in a jerry can in the first place. I went quarreling on the boda boda but had nothing to do.
So, whereas Hon Kamya has a good point, the strategy will need a holistic approach with a budget that MTN had to sell its shares, to get people to hate, loathe and want to keep away from corruption. It will be difficult for her to clean the few pigs while standing in the pigsty and using fellow pigs to do the job. She should have realized how big the task ahead of her was when she proposed that churches should not bless the money and those who bring it if it comes from the wrong sources. Clearly we know the front pews and the people that get mentioned during prayers in religious gatherings are often the who is who in corruption. The Pastors, Bishops are also human with human needs. They don’t know the source of the money. They have to simply pray for it and “cleanse it “ and hope that the “Lord accepts the sacrifices of his people.“ Bishop Kiganda and Pastor Joseph Seruwadda, who were in attendance, laughed with all of us at her suggestion that such offerings should be rejected. I don’t know many who will.
We live in a septic tank of corruption. Normal work no longer makes sense. Many have quit work to “ work smart” by chasing deals. The papers are awash with stories of money stolen almost daily but little or nothing comes out beyond the expensive probes (where rumors abound that corruption takes the lead) and reports where a few get affected. What Hon Kamya needs is a strong campaign like that of Covid 19 where high frequency properties on all media are used, with clever messages to explain the evil. Where schools are painted with anti corruption messages, where churches and mosques are full of these messages. Where resources aren’t spared to ensure children learn to question their fathers and mothers where the money came from for those expensive toys. Where slay queens will know that that Iphone 13 might be their money. Before we get homework to expose corrupt officials, we need to take the corruption war home. I hope she had the budget and support as well as the will to do that. Good luck BonkT . You need it!
By Innocent Nahabwe
CEO at BlueCube Limited Incorporating Kagwirawo sports betting, 100.2 Galaxy FM, Bluecube, Katogo 24 and 911 Lounge Salaama Rd, Kampala
Deputy Chairperson of National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).