Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Inspector General of Government (IGG), Beti Olive Kamya maintains that she will not retract nor apologize over the recent comments she made that government officials like herself are cushioned from direct impacts of corruption.
In a recent cautionary message that went viral on social media, Beti Kamya called on ordinary Ugandans to be at the forefront of fighting corruption, saying when money is lost to corruption and services and systems such as medical care become dysfunctional, the corrupt or the politically connected get airlifted abroad for treatment – moreover at the taxpayers’ expense.
Equally, she said, government officials like her who travel in big four-wheeled vehicles don’t feel the potholes on poorly maintained roads like those who ride in smaller cars, who, even have to constantly keep repairing their vehicles at their own expense while government officials never even get to know the cost of fuel as they are entitled to fuel vouchers or cards.
Following her blunt statements, a section of Ugandans accused her of being arrogant and reminded her that corruption affects everybody saying being airlifted abroad is no guarantee of better healthcare as many have been brought back dead due to lack of first aid or primary healthcare in public hospitals.
They also said due to corruption in the education sector, unqualified medical personnel may secure jobs in private healthcare facilities where rich government officials throng, and here, they might get misdiagnosed anyway. Also, because of poor pay in government facilities, some public health officers are forced to moonlight and work in several other private hospitals which takes a toll on their mental capabilities and stability.
However, Beti Kamya remains adamant and says she’s not deterred by those that have chosen to “spin” her ‘corruption talk’ message. While addressing an integrity conference for universities, tertiary institutions, and secondary schools at Nkumba University, she said what she said earlier is a fact and hence will not apologize or resign over her remarks.
Beti Kamya again emphasized that the war on corruption must be championed by the ordinary people because they are the most afflicted by the effects of corruption. She also said the citizens are armed with information about big beneficiaries of graft since they live in the communities with the “big fish” (top graft beneficiaries).
“Senior public servants, they are not victims to the same extent like those who are not. They are cushioned in a way because using public resources, they live a luxurious life. That is what I was saying and people did not want me to say it and people even called for my resignation. Even if I resign today, I will hand over that VX [vehicle] to the next IG and the next IG will enjoy all the benefits that I’m enjoying.
And it is not only for government, there are members of the opposition whom you know fell sick, they didn’t go to Mulago, they went to America. You know them, even the most critical of government when they fell sick, they were airlifted to Nairobi.
So it is not about working for government or supporting NRM, it is about crossing a certain rubicon – you’re there and the people are here. People who work in government or certain institutions most of them, they have healthcare insurance. Most senior government officials are cushioned against the effects of corruption because of the benefits and facilities that they enjoy,” she said.
The conference themed: “Citizens must own the war against corruption was organized by the IGG’s office in conjunction with Nkumba University Integrity Club” attracted Nkumba, Victoria, MUBS, Muteesa I Royal, Kyambogo, KIU, and Ndejje universities in addition to a host of other tertiary institutions and secondary schools.
Over 600 integrity clubs’ leaders and students from the institutions attended the conference at the end of which participants positively responded to her calling to be “integrity ambassadors/warriors.”
The warriors were called upon to use all the tools available to support the war on graft. She gave out her mobile phone numbers; 0752-480-299 and 0707-721-146 so that anyone with information can petition or anonymously provide it for her office to investigate it. She promised utmost confidentiality, never to disclose the sources of the information.
Talking about the cost of corruption in Uganda, she said research indicated that annually the country loses over Shs 10 trillion to graft.
“A recent study was done by the Inspectorate of Government in 2021 on the cost of corruption. Uganda loses a minimum of Shs 10 trillion per year to corruption. This is researched study…Now, you might not know it, but the total amount of money that we collect, the total domestic revenue of Uganda is about Shs 27 trillion.
So out of Shs 27 trillion which we collect, Shs 10 trillion is lost to corruption, then we go and ask donors to top up which we call budget support but Shs 10 trillion has been taken by a few people from our taxes. That money should be doing services for us.
They have also told us in that research how that money is lost. Most of that money is lost in procurement issues – construction of roads, payroll, other things that government buys… In Uganda, we have about 10,000 parishes, now if we saved the Shs 10 trillion and divided it among the parishes, each parish in Uganda would get Shs 1 billion per year. Now imagine what Shs 1 billion per year would do to your parish… Because money is lost in corruption that is why we have poor hospitals, no medicine in hospitals, the poor education and quality of services,” she said.
The ordinary persons, she said were the ones who in their villages saw and knew those in public offices putting up projects way above their earnings. The beneficiaries of graft, she said, were buying huge properties, carrying out mega projects, marrying several wives, and living luxurious lives.
She appealed to the public to document questionable mega-personal projects by taking pictures and provide information about the owners. Such information, she explained could be splashed on social media or sent to the ombudsman. The ombudsman disclosed that their findings had been that the war on graft was not moving because the masses had not been engaged and were not participating in the war against graft.
Unfortunately, she said the ordinary people often compliment the corrupt to the point of giving them mentions at burials for the big sums contributed in condolences, forgetting that the deceased might have lost their life because the corrupt official’s actions led to a lack of drugs in the hospital or led to delayed salaries of health workers.
The top officials, she said, often ensure that they used clerks and subordinates to drain public resources without leaving their own footsteps or trail, making it difficult to pin the “big fish” in graft.
The ombudsman also disclosed that though her office was most interested in graft in public office, there was also a lot of graft in the private sector, impeding the growth of enterprises.
Giving examples, she said often recruitment officers demanded sex from female applicants, and others demanded bribes to give the job out to a qualified applicant. In markets and big businesses, she said attendants sold bosses’ merchandise and went back to the source to replace the sold merchandise, thereafter reporting the failure of the business.
Nkumba University Integrity Club president, Amon Muhwezi said the conference was beneficial equipping them with knowledge about graft and emboldening them for the fight. Nkumba University academic registrar Dr Frank Pius Kiyingi said the institution took integrity very seriously, the reason why every course had a module on ethics.