The opposition in parliament yesterday Wednesday failed in their bid to block what they termed as unwarranted Shs 1.9 billion expenditure to commemorate the International Anti-Corruption Day slated for this Friday, December 9.
International Anti-Corruption Day is observed annually on December 9 since the approval of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption on October 31, 2003, to raise public awareness against corruption.
Ibanda district in western Uganda is slated to host this year's event. The district was selected to host the event because, during the 2021 performance appraisal, it emerged as the best-performing Local Government in service delivery.
Rose Lilly Akello, the minister of state for Ethics and Integrity presented a statement during the plenary indicating that the estimated cost of the event is Shs 1.909 billion and Shs 452.2 million will be provided directly by the government.
Akello explained that the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) had already provided Shs 150 million to the Inspectorate of Government to support the event whose outcome aims at improving transparency and accountability in the delivery of public services.
However, moving the motion without notice under parliamentary rule 59 (1)(k), the leader of opposition (LoP) Mathias Mpuuga, argued that the event is exorbitant and the money instead be channelled to meet the country’s ailing health and education sectors.
Mpuuga argued that whereas such monies exclude funds spent by individual ministries and agencies to transport their officials to the function, the government should channel the money to victims of corruption including mothers who die during childbirth due to inefficiencies in the health sector due to corruption.
"I'm moving under rule 59 that the house is moved to urge government to channel the funds so allocated for the commemoration - the equivalent of Shs 450m to support the victims of corruption in Ibanda district and do away with the celebrations of the commemorations. That the same money, schools and health centres are selected to benefit from this money instead of raising banners, balloons and tents," he said.
But Lukia Isanga Nakadama, the 3rd Deputy Prime Minister opposed the motion, saying it was too late for parliament to stop the event because some funds have already been paid to service providers to prepare for the commemoration to be celebrated under the theme, “Citizens Must Own the War to Eliminate Corruption- It is Their War”.
"Preparations for this day started some time back and are already in high gear to celebrate this day. Money has already been spent on some activities because the activities are not only for that day, so some money has already been spent. Am requesting honourable colleagues that maybe if we want such to take place, we can come in a bit early so that we don't channel money to that day so that we take it to other activities," said Nakadama.
Thomas Tayebwa, who presided over the plenary session subjected the motion to a vote before controversially ruling in favour of the opponents to the dissatisfaction of the seconders, the opposition members of parliament.
While the government says the anti-corruption campaign is essential to give accountability to the country on key achievements of the anti-corruption agencies since July 2020, especially with the recovered funds, the lawmakers demanded that all high-ranking public officers implicated in corruption scandals be named and shamed.
The IG investigated 26 high-profile cases and consequently directed the recovery of Shs 18.2 billion from public officers who misused public funds. Of the embezzled funds, Shs 7.2 billion has so far been recovered and paid into the inspectorate’s asset recovery account.
Notably, the office of the auditor general carried out 6,268 financial compliance audits, 23 value-for-money audits, 101 specialized engineering audits, 85 forensic special audits, and nine IT audits over the last three financial years. Through these audits, loss of funds was averted leading to the recovery of Shs 175 billion. In addition, assets and cash amounting to Shs 4 billion were recovered during the audit.
Equally, the State House Anti-Corruption unit recovered Shs 41.6 billion out of which Shs 9.6 billion was from inflated COVID-19 relief food prices; Shs 4.5 billion from Local Governments; Shs 3.6 billion from inflated compensation of Bukasa inland port affected persons; Shs 2.9 billion worth of drugs, which had been stolen from Joint Medical Stores were recovered, among others.
An empirical study initiated by the Inspectorate of Government in 2021 to establish the cost of corruption in Uganda revealed that Shs 9.144 trillion (23 per cent) of the annual government budget is lost to corruption conduits both the private and public institutions.