Hardly a day passes by without hearing or reading a story in the media of taxpayers’ money disappearing without a trace. The usual claim is that the money is lost to unknown ‘ghosts.’ The implication is that such money will never be recovered. The tale of the loss is just to let you know.
When President Museveni was fresh from the bush, one of his pet subjects was to inform people that corruption was one of the main reasons why he had to fight the bad governments of the past.
He loved to say that corruption constituted mainly two aspects. Un-receipted money and payment for work not done, then commonly known as ‘air supply.’
Twenty eight years later, we are almost where we begun. So much money has been lost in so many schemes in which there are no names but huge unrecoverable sums.
When the NRM took over, the leadership had the challenge of rewarding those who had sacrificed (or starved) themselves to bring the government to power.
Many of them came along with equally hungry relatives, friends and other associations. For every misdeed, they replied that they had ‘fought’ and by extension they deserved to do as they pleased.
They would ask those without ‘bush credentials’ where they were when the fighting was taking place. Often they would tease them by claiming that they were enjoying sausages and occasionally hiding under their bed during the war. So, they had no authority to ask the fighters for accountability.
With time, the groups that needed to be rewarded by being allowed to accumulate wealth primitively grew with different challenges that the NRM encountered in a bid to perpetuate itself in power. For instance, the group that brought NRM to power was joined by those who helped it ‘win’ elections.
Museveni gradually became like a polygamous man. The more ‘wives’ he takes on, the more he stretches his time, financial and diplomatic skills to appease all of them. Progressively, the situation becomes difficult to monitor and control.
Museveni and NRM find themselves in a situation where the number of people to whom they owe gratitude for their stay in power has increased.
Each comes with a string of relations and financial demands. The chain links become cabals that are intractable. They build solid networks. The ones who initiate the stealing of the money simply pass it on to the ones responsible for receiving it and sharing it out.
They then proceed to destroy any evidence. In case there are attempts at prosecution, they frustrate all efforts to arrive at a conviction because the prosecution and the defence are one and the same in terms of interest.
In case it is taken further, attempts to displace one or two individuals have the potential of destabilising a plethora of people, many of whom NRM and Museveni owe a lot of gratitude.
That is why it has now become common for top government officials to hide under the claim that those who steal taxpayers’ money are very ‘clever and sophisticated’ in their ways. Far from it. They are simply taking aantage of a situation where they have become untouchable because the people in charge of discipline cannot look them straight in the eye and call them thieves.
Many times when challenged, the culprits claim they acted with ‘orders from above’ which ties in many people and has the potential of embarrassing some of the leading lights in government.
That is how we have come to this new phenomenon called ‘ghosts’. Ghost teachers, workers, soldiers, companies, legislators, etc. They serve two purposes. First, they are creations and avenues to steal and share taxpayers’ money.
Secondly, they are the excuse for not naming names and recovering the money because they are ‘invisible’.
This ‘invisibility’ is a creation that serves as a shield for those who steal taxpayers’ money with impunity. Invisibility is what they share with ghosts even though they are not ghost!
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Daily Monitor