NOVEMBER 15, 2010: Can Museveni Fight Corruption When Many of His Top Cabinet Ministers Remain Under Suspicion?

Can Museveni Fight Corruption When Many of His Top Cabinet Ministers Remain Under Suspicion?

SOURCE: The Monitor

By Tabu Butagira

At least 10 ministers accused of abuse of office or other forms of improper conduct remain in Cabinet, despite President Museveni's campaign pledge to fight corruption if re-elected in February.

Mr Museveni's decision to keep the officials in Cabinet, including protecting some of them from possible prosecution, has turned corruption into one of the main campaign issues, with the President's opponents accusing him of lacking the political will to fight graft.

The UK government recently announced it was cutting Shs27 billion in promised aid over what it said was less-than-satisfactory progress on investigating senior ministers accused of corrupt practice and influence-peddling over the 2007 Chogm Summit in which billions were lost in dubious deals.

Government officials say the UK decision did not take into consideration the on-going parliamentary inquiry into the matter as evidence of political will to address the problem.

President Museveni and the ruling NRM have, in their re-election manifesto, pledged to continue fighting corruption. Mr Museveni says the NRM is committed to a policy of "zero-tolerance to corruption" and will, if re-elected, strengthen the investigative and prosecution capacity of anti-corruption agencies to be able to handle the new and more sophisticated cases of corruption, including cyber crime.

Critics, both in the opposition and civil society, however, say President Museveni has failed to act on his promises.

While many of the Cabinet ministers who have been accused have not been proven guilty, the failure to investigate the allegations against them has denied some of them an opportunity to clear their names, leaving a cloud of suspicion over many Cabinet ministers.

A Daily Monitor investigation also reveals that some ministers who have been found guilty of improper conduct have been reappointed to Cabinet, often on promotion.

Here are the men and women who serve with the President but who have been denied the chance to clear their names in court.

Vice President Prof. Gilbert Bukenya

The Public Accounts Committee accuses Prof. Bukenya of interfering with the procurement process during Chogm, contrary to the law, leading to a Shs5.6 billion loss.

Prof. Bukenya denies the allegations. He told Parliament last week that the decisions were taken collectively by Cabinet with President Museveni's knowledge.

Deputy Premier/Internal Affairs Minister Kirunda Kivejinja

Accused of diverting 2,000 litres of fuel from Uganda Railways Corporation in 1999 to help a political ally, Mr Kivejinja resigned just as MPs prepared to censure him as Transport minister.

He returned to Cabinet in 2003 and was later promoted to his current portfolio. He was also found guilty of electoral malpractices during a bitter race against Abdu Katuntu for the Bugweri parliamentary seat in 2006.

Attorney General Prof. Khiddu Makubuya

The PAC report accuses Prof Makubuya of signing off advances to private hoteliers ahead of Chogm without repayment guarantees. About Shs8 billion in taxpayers' money was lost in the process but Prof Makubuya denies any wrongdoing.

Security Minister Amama Mbabazi

The PAC report accuses Mr Mbabazi, who is also the NRM Secretary General, of interference and conflict of interest in the procurement of a communication system for the security agencies through the ICT ministry. MPs have also questions why the contract came in at about Shs4.1 billion higher but Mr Mbabazi denies any wrongdoing.

A parliamentary inquiry in 2008 found Mr Mbabazi guilty of influence-peddling in a transaction in which he and a business associate, Mr Amos Nzeyi, sold land to the National Social Security Fund. Mr Mbabazi was later cleared by Parliament under controversial circumstances. The top two NSSF officials were fired and former MD David Jamwa is currently awaiting trial at the Anti-Corruption Court over related matters.

Agriculture Minister Hope Mwesigye

PAC has recommended that minister Mwesigye and other government officials should be held liable for a loss of Shs280m to government arising from a Shs7 billion contract to clean up the city ahead of Chogm. Ms Mwesigye oversaw the process in her previous capacity as State Minister for Local Government and is accused of authorising payments to contractors against the advice of ministry technocrats, and of failing to declare monies paid by exhibitors. She denies all the allegations.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa

The 6th Parliament in 1999 censured Mr Kutesa, then state minister for planning, for conflict of interest and abuse of office after he pushed for his company, Entebbe Handling Services, to take over the lucrative ground-handling at Entebbe Airport. This denied the already struggling Uganda Airlines much-needed revenue and contributed to the collapse of the national carrier.Mr Kutesa was reappointed to Cabinet shortly after and promoted.

MPs investigating Chogm accuse him of conflict-of-interest for allegedly acting in concert with VP Bukenya to ensure that a company in which the minister, until 2005, owned a majority stake, supplied cars for the summit delegates. He denies all allegations.

Trade and Tourism Minister Kahinda Otafiire

Gen. Otafiire resigned his ministerial position in the mid-90s after he drew a pistol on Jennifer, the late wife to Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa. In the incident over a drink at Fairway Hotel, Maj. Gen. Otafiire accused late Jennifer of having "sucked" the country to its "bone marrow".

A 2002 UN Panel of Experts report accused Gen. Otafiire, alongside other senior army officers, of various transgressions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (where he'd been deployed after leaving Cabinet), including working with brutal allied local militias to "plunder and pillage" DR Congo resources.

Gen. Otafiire in self-defence said there was nothing worth picking from DRC, and a government created Justice Potter Commission later exonerated all Ugandan officials implicated in the UN report.

He was later reappointed to Cabinet but his stints in the Lands, Local Government and Trade and Tourism ministries have been marred by controversy over the management of public assets and resources.

Transport Minister Eng. John Nasasira

One of the longest-serving cabinet ministers (and the longest serving in the same ministry), Eng. Nasasira is named in the Chogm report together with VP Bukenya for interfering with procurement of the Chogm cars, contrary to the law.

Mr Nasasira is also accused of neglect of duty and of bending procurement procedures to favour one of the bidders.

State Minister for Regional Cooperation Isaac Musumba

The State Minister for Regional Cooperation was embroiled in a scandal over the procurement of a National Identity Card project when a personal cheque he presented of Shs28 million to facilitate an 11-member team to visit pre-qualified companies bounced.

The minister's personal involvement in the matter contravened the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority regulations but he was never held accountable.

The project, which was halted following complaints from one of the bidders, is yet to get off the ground. Mr Musumba is still in Cabinet.

State Minister for Tourism Serapio Rukundo

As State Minister for Tourism Serapio Rukundo solicited for $3m (sh6b) from the finance ministry to help the proprietor of J&M Airport Hotel complete it ahead of the 2007 Commonwealth summit.

According to the Auditor General's report, J&M was not on the list of approved Chogm venues and no activity was supposed to have been hosted there. The government gave the hotel $1.3m (about sh2.7b) to complete 200 rooms two days before the summit.He denies any wrongdoing.

Ethics minister Dr Nsaba Buturo

Ethics minister Dr Nsaba Buturo, who has chided top bureaucrats for involving in graft came under the microscope for irregularly picking Shs20 million from Mega FM in Gulu to facilitate the making of a government documentary.

He later had the money reimbursed following public outcry.

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