Kampala, Arusha could learn a thing from Ugandan crooks

Crooks and criminals sometimes pull off a theft that impresses. The type that gets me thinking: they should have put that ingenuity into eradicating Ebola.

The scandal at our roads agency is still unfolding. Imagine if the whispered infighting at UNRA had not contributed to the spilling of the tomatoes. Imagine if the crooks had also not tried to do each other in. This would have passed off really nicely. And we may yet have ended up with a tarred road.

The mastermind failed to keep all his (we assume it is a man) balls in the air. Now we have our national scandal, the latest yet. What has me respecting the mastermind is how he cooked up such a scheme.

This crook’s management chops are nothing to laugh about. The chap dreamt up stuff, drew up a plan, recruited accomplices from various countries (Uganda, United States, China) and various trades (insurance, banking, civil engineering). And on his way he was – all the way to Mukono-Katosi via the office of the minister of Works and Transport and UNRA headquarters.

This guy could actually run that ministry better than Abraham Byandala – he who failed to seal Kampala’s potholes and is now presiding over big-size screw-ups in the road, railway, and aviation sub-sectors.

The sad bit is the story a friend told me. He is a man who knows UNRA’s workings well. That four top officials were suspended so as “not to interfere with investigations” is clear. They may be cleared and returned to office, or fingered and fired. The stopover to their homes may well be the Anti-Corruption Court and Luzira Max.

One of the four officials is highly and widely regarded inside UNRA and amongst those on the outside, including my friend, who “interface” technically with the agency. The man is said to have been the heart, soul, brain and workhorse of the place. He has been there since creation. Should he be fired, it is not only his family that will feel the loss.

How culpable is he? If his culpability is less than 50 per cent (former Attorney General Khiddu Makubuya may have an idea how to measure this one), the man should be spared. Look, the Museveni government bureaucracy has few men and women with a fine record of achievement. Our man at UNRA has a fine record of achievement.

So we have got to be careful about losing the baby as well instead of just the bathwater. We are supposedly a religious country, which means a few transgressions should be forgiven. We maybe religious but we are not angels. There are no perfect men and women in our little country. Even if I rail regularly against Crime Inc. UG, my glasses are clear.

Which is also why I cannot understand why Mr Richard Byarugaba is not sitting in the MD’s chair at NSSF.

If widely acknowledged good results don’t count, what does? If a man is accused of transgressions, he is investigated and the smoking gun is a few unwise but minor decisions (the purchase of UMEME shares remains such a brilliant decision that anyone who questions it knows nothing about making money on the stock exchange and should be disregarded), surely, that cannot be a firing offence.

Maybe Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka and her aisors know of someone out there better than Mr Byarugaba. But that can only be guesswork because that someone has not run NSSF Uganda and produced verifiable results.

Okay, if Mr Byarugaba must go in the old tradition that none is indispensable and that good deeds must be punished, why take months upon months without filling the damn position? Is this a case of “take a major decision now, ask questions later”?

Back to real crooks and criminals. Whoever stole the car attached to Kenya’s presidential escort is a cool dude indeed. Here is another who could improve the human condition by running a legitimate yet successful enterprise. The fellow and his accomplices are master risk-takers. I am told bold risk-taking is a key ingredient for success on this planet.

Besides, if the guy is indeed Ugandan, he has taken trans-boundary co-operation a notch higher. This thief and his Kenyan accomplices could teach the EAC something. They deliver tangible results. They don’t spend their time cooking up yet another plan or feasibility study to launch. They get on with it. Officialdom in Kampala and Arusha needs to get on with it.

Mr Tabaire is the co-founder and director of programmes at African Centre for Media Excellence in Kampala.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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