COVID-19 FUNDS MAY HAVE ENDED UP IN THE 2021 ELECTION CAMPAIGNS
Covid-19 funds may have ended up in the 2021 election campaigns.
The audit report for the financial year 2019/2020 by the Office of Auditor General exposed gross mismanagement of UGX143b ($40,241,368) COVID-19 money to botched procurements and supply of Covid-19 goods and services.
Coincidentally Covid-19 pandemic outbreak came during a heightened political season when Uganda was gearing up towards the 2021 elections. Going by the political pre-campaign spending that transpired within that period, it is difficult to deduct COVID money from campaign money.
SecretsKnown believes that some political leaders with access to COVID money regarded the pandemic as a blessing to finance their political ambitions. There is a correlation between the magnitude of campaign spending and politicians who had access to covid money. The preliminary report by ACFIM on campaign spending for the 2021 elections gives credence to the above assertion.
The rot in procurement and supply of Covid-19 goods and services provided a window through which money was siphoned to among other things finance campaigns of some politicians. The spikes in spending during the pre-campaign period to a tune of UGX 253 bn ($71,148,692) according to the ACFIM study, coincided with the first total lockdown where COVID related bulk procurements were done by government.
Out of the UGX4.36Tn ($1,226,775,816) raised, UGX284bn ($79,887,921) was from supplementary budget, UGX27b ($7,591,890) from the contingency fund, UGX11.6b ($3,261,701) from cash donations by individuals and companies and material items donated worth UGX23bn ($6,467,019).
Political vampires descended on this money turning it into political capital for their political ambitions. The money was spent on inducing voters through social projects, buying and distributing relief items to the electorate, voter handouts in form of sugar, soap, and salt, donations to churches and mosques, including youth and women groups among others.
Voters may or may not remember how some political candidates pampered them during political courtship for seeking re-election. For every, coin spent on a voter by the politician during elections, there is a strong likelihood that part of that money was COVID money. The secret known is that following the trail where COVID money ended, it will among other destinations lead to election campaign financing of some candidates.
The smoking gun by the audit report points to entities such as ministry of health UGX100b ($28,140,135), ministry of defense UGX16b ($4,502,135), Uganda Police Force UGX 21.2b ($5,965,106), Uganda Prisons Services UGX 3.4b ($956,613), Office of president UGX123m ($34,606) and other District Local governments. The audit report raises concern that all the entities above were non-compliant with procurement regulations exposing public funds to misuse and gross abuse.
It remains to be seen what action government will take on the audit report by the Office of the Auditor-General given that perhaps some of the culprits are already elected and occupying political offices.
The tragedy of this greed is in what we see currently during the second wave of the pandemic. The shortage of oxygen, hospital beds, and COVID medicine is a price Ugandans are paying for some self-seeking politicians who preferred their political ambitions to a national cause. Indeed, history will judge us one day!