Published by Patra K on

Premier Nabbanja attempting to tread where her predecessors failed

Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja. (Photo courtesy of The Spy)

The Office of the Prime Minister has in the recent weeks dominated the media for what has become a regular offense in Uganda – corruption, just that this time, the scandal was unearthed by the Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja. The Prime Minister had gone to Kasese district to assess the extent of damage caused by river Nyamwamba on the people and also oversee the handover of relief items to persons who had been displaced by floods.  

The premier was appalled by the substandard quality of relief items which included beans, blankets, Mosquito nets among others procured by her office. This prompted her to halt the distribution process and ordered another consignment of better quality relief items to be delivered to displaced persons in Kasese.

The Office of the Prime Minister is no stranger to grand corruption scandals and is perceived by the public as a hub of systemic corruption. Between Amama Mbabazi’s and Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda’s reign, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has been involved in grand corruption scandals involving billions of shillings.

In 2012, officials in the office of the prime minister were alleged to have stolen UGX 44.9 billion ($12.7 million)) meant for the reconstruction of war-ravaged areas in northern Uganda and Karamoja region under the Peace, Recovery, and Development Program (NURP). In 2018, the same office was embroiled in a scandal of abuse of funds for refugees including inflation in the number of refugees. 

A total of 19,000 ghost refugees were purported to have been discovered in Kampala alone. In 2020, four OPM officials including then Permanent Secretary Christine Guwatudde, Accounting Officer Joel Wanjala, Assistant Commissioner of Procurement Fred Lutimba, and Commissioner of Disaster Management Martin Owor were arrested for presiding over an inflated procurement of covid-19 relief food, causing government financial loss of more than UGX 2 billion ($565,348).

Nabbanja’s reign hasn’t been spared either, and early into her maiden term, she is faced with a classic OPM procurement-related scandal, only that, unlike her predecessor, she has confronted the problem head on to the annoyance of the perpetrators and giving hope to the public. The golden question is, whether the newly appointed Prime Minister will win a war that has defeated her predecessors?

The war against corruption is akin to fighting a drug cartel war. The corrupt have built powerful political networks that insulate them from the long arm of the law. Ms. Nabbanja is treading where her predecessors didn’t. From precedents, the war against corruption under the NRM‘s leadership has been a loner’s war. 

Political elites and the business class have highly benefited from corruption and the premier is up against this lot. The public has resigned to the fight against corruption having seen the corrupt become untouchable and corruption rewarding. For Ms. Nabbanja to win this war, she needs the support of the public. She is now in the interim, the new face of the corruption fight representing an ordinary Ugandan who is the victim of the vice.

The public can start by refusing substandard services and goods, the political elites in government throw at us as if they are doing us a favor and demand quality and right quantity of goods. For instance, most of the beans and maize flour distributed as relief during the first lockdown was passed unfit for human consumption. 

The Auditor-General also highlighted the poor quality of food items procured in the 2021 report on the Covid-19 pandemic at a cost of UGX 62 billion ($17,466,317). Those that supplied substandard food relief are known. If the premier demonstrates to us that she can whip anyone without fear or favor for stealing public resources, then we will come forward and report. After all, these thieves are our friends, relatives, employers, and neighbors. 

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