On Wednesday October 10, I and colleagues who sit on the Parliament Public Accounts Committee (PAC) retreated to Entebbe to write reports on the findings of the auditor general relating to abuse and misuse of public funds.
Of course the auditor general, like all audits, is postmortem, done when the money is already stolen or misused. The situation is made worse because parliamentary committees responsible for processing the auditor general’s reports consider them several years later.
I think, in future, the country will need to sanction MPs for not doing their work. The constitution sets a deadline within which the auditor general must produce a report and a deadline within which parliament must process it.
The auditor general, to his credit, submits these reports within the constitutional deadline but parliament never considers them. In Entebbe, therefore, we were processing reports of 2014/15 and 2015/16.
One of the auditor general’s reports we considered in our retreat was on the recently constructed and commissioned markets in Lira, Gulu, Fort Portal, Hoima, Mbale, Jinja and Kampala.
To commence construction, Uganda borrowed more than Shs 83 billion from the African Development Bank (AfDB). We also borrowed some money from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA). The project to redevelop markets is what came to be known as Markets and Agricultural Trade Improvement Project (MATIP).
Wandegeya market alone cost us Shs 22 billion. I have used Wandegeya to help you understand how many markets our president “eats” every year.
To construct markets, we borrowed Shs 83 billion from ADB yet our good president allocated himself Shs 97 billion every year for donations. This is the money he goes waving in Kamwokya, Bwaise, Nsambya and Kireka.
It is also important for you to note that Jennifer Musisi, Executive Director of KCCA spent Shs 40 billion to buy Usafi market in Katwe, which is eucalyptus poles and iron sheets but that is a story for another day.
Vulnerable vendors have been dressed in yellow T-shirts to welcome the president each time he has gone out to commission these markets, posing like he is the donor.
This year, government will have to pay more than Shs 4 trillion in interest for money it has borrowed from commercial banks and abroad. These vendors who dance for him as he commissions markets don’t know that the same person will return as a ghost to collect the money spent on the markets from them as mobile money tax and other fees.
And the auditor general in a value-for-money audit, reports an overpayment of Shs 756 million to various contractors and Shs 901 million, which was understated for the Lira and Hoima markets.
The auditor general further reports that a number of facilities agreed in the contracts were left out by the contractors. The facilities left out included: lockups, stalls, cold rooms, restaurants, banking halls, clinics and pharmacies.
And guess what? When PAC visited, it saw broken pipes already emitting sewage and flooding because of poor drainage. There is flooding at Kiruddu hospital for which we also borrowed money.
Heavy downpour found me at Kiruddu hospital when I had gone to visit Nambooze Bakirekke (Mukono Municipality MP) and the whole ground floor was like a river. This is the fate of many projects under this administration. Most of them are disposable and although borrowed money is used, the facilities won’t outlive the regime.
And there are no culprits. At Entebbe, we asked ourselves many times which sort of punishment we should recommend for people who have stolen or failed to stop the stealing. We didn’t know what will work because to trust this regime with prosecution is to pretend.
My friend Gerald Karuhanga even wondered whether recovery of the stolen money would be of value. It would be like entrusting a lion with a zebra rescued from hunters.
Remember all the work that the auditor general and PAC did after the 2007 CHOGM scandals. Ministers Sam Kutesa, John Nasasira and Mwesigwa Rukutana were accused of causing financial loss and abuse of office when they sanctioned construction of parkings, a marina and other facilities at Sudhir Rupaleria’s Speke Resort Munyonyo at a cost of Shs 14 billion.
These ministers were supposed to appear in the Anti-Corruption court but for obvious reasons they didn’t. They petitioned the Constitutional court, which ruled that as a deputy IGG, Raphael Baku didn’t have the mandate to try them.
The court further ruled that cancelling their bail by the Magistrate’s Court because of committal to the High Court was also unconstitutional. And just like that, the matter that needed appointment of a substantial IGG died on technicalities.
Only Prof Gilbert Bukenya went to Luzira over CHOGM. The CHOGM drama cost Uganda Shs 500 billion, the biggest amount of which was stolen. What about Jim Muhwezi and Mike Mukula who were accused of helping themselves with HIV/Aids and malaria patients money under Global Fund and GAVI?
I think you have forgotten their story the same way you don’t remember the Shs 169 billion given to businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba. Recently, Basajjabalaba had come for more. He wanted to be given Shs 40 billion for losing the city abattoir.
The author is Kira Municipality MP and opposition chief whip in parliament.