OFWONO OPONDO: Mr. President; tighten the noose against corruption racketeers

The poorly kept secret from the NRM caucus and parliament is that MPs transactions including passing policies and bills are often oiled by soft cash at their bidding nicknamed ‘article’.

At last week’s State of the Nation Address to parliament, President Yoweri Museveni revealed that he now has hard evidence against corruption racketeers between the Ministry of Finance, and parliament vowing to give them a decisive “crush” and so far, three little-known NRM MPs got arrested and indicted this week for tempting to extort from Mariam Wangadya, chairperson Uganda Human Rights Commissioner, and a former deputy IGG. How silly they were.

Mostly inconsequential, except for voting, Cissy Namujju, Paul Akamba, and newcomer Yusuf Mutembuli could be fronts for a larger howl of hounds united by a shared purpose for self-enrichment. Previous attempts at fat political cats fell through the doors as none got convicted by courts of law, were quickly rehabilitated, and re-admitted into the fold.

Apparently, like hounds, they have primal instincts and olfactory abilities to sniff money scent in ministries and agencies often aided by civil servants for tracking in their common goal. The poorly kept secret from the NRM caucus and parliament is that MPs transactions including passing policies and bills are often oiled by soft cash at their bidding nicknamed ‘article’.

So, typically, the budget cycle is when the warm sunshine arrives and you begin hearing the distant whispers of hounds echoing through the valleys, otherwise called committees, signaling the start of the money hunt. We have been hearing hunting horns piercing the forest canopy as gathering hounds set off for their chase haranguing ‘uncooperative’ government accounting officers. But usually, many accounting officers are willing partners in the white-collar crime because they know how and where the money is hidden within their official budgets. In the sectoral and the bigger budget committee deals are cut, sometimes slashed, and reallocate higher figures to ministries or agencies whose officers have ‘agreed’ to cooperate with committee chairpersons or MPs. This perk is the first to be released at the beginning of financial year (July-September), or last quarter of April-June when the treasury slate is cleared in a rush with no one waving them down. The respective ministry ‘desk officers’ at the Finance Ministry are demigods without whose endorsements, budgets may not be shuffled around.

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These events should re-energize the public that had lost hope because President Museveni had recently been treating corruption allegations including against cabinet ministers with soft ball gloves. In fact, his letter to the Inspector General of Government a year ago to “go slow” on corruption allegations in the UPDF caused jeers and sneer. While the president is usually methodical, many saw the dismissal of Mary Goretti Kitutu and Agnes Nanduttu from cabinet as coming too late.

Under the banner of broad-basedness and inclusivity, the NRM has been gathering dubious politicians into its leadership ranks especially electoral politics to obtain numerical strength, reluctant to check their background. That failure is now undoubtedly proving that there is a price to pay unless it redraws its political line.

But well although he wrote to the IGG over UPDF, he nevertheless recently carried out dramatic reshuffles pointing towards taming corruption that had crept back reminiscent to when Col. Kizza Besigye was Chief of Logistics and Engineering or Maj. Gen. James Kazini was army commander as UPDF became a den where hounds wagged tails in illicit deal-making. Listening to Besigye speak against corruption these days is quite heartwarming.

NRM has for long taken shelter in proclaiming the many anti-corruption agencies and legislation enacted under its watch, yet few big cats have been effectively snared. Many Ugandans liked when the president tongue-in-cheek suggested some form of amnesty for the corrupt, but MPs roared back that they were thirsty for blood to spill. Now the anxious public waits to see how serious they are since some of them are already being fingered by the arm of the law.

Mr Ofwono Opondo Podel, the government spokesperson

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