The ongoing COVID-19 10-billion-shilling parliamentary saga and food distribution debacle has exposed subtle state capture.
It has brought to light the systematic collusion between the different arms of government and some powerful businesspeople in their concerted exertions to undermine nation-building in favour of private interests.
“State capture”, loosely means the inconsistent and unfettered influence of interest groups, powerful individuals, institutions or decision-making process, where specific private interests trump state ideals. State institutions such as the executive, legislature and the judiciary are all subject to capture.
Here in Europe there was the 2011 cash for amendments scandal, where members of the European parliament [MEP] were caught accepting money in return for tabling pro industry amendments. Sound familiar!
When one looks at the COVID-19 money scandal and the food distribution debacle it has hallmarks of state capture. It reaffirms the theory that the legislature, executive and judiciary are already undergoing the process of capture.
So, you have a supplementary budget that comes from the executive to the parliament for scrutiny and then appropriation. According to parliamentary procedure, there should be a first reading, second if required. Through all that, it is the parliaments duty to forensically examine the contents of the budget and give the tax payer value for his taxes. The Parliament approves the 284 billion shillings supplementary budget to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the country with out much fanfare.
Then the speaker and parliament bemoan about the state’s fiscal profligacy, yet they are the same people who approved it. Attacking the executive and the judiciary yet they should be aligned. It is quite baffling to say the least. It exposes all the arms of government to the venality consuming them, the same crooked wheel keeps spinning. Who is fooling who?
How low can an institution get when caught out corruptly rewarding itself money, then turn to the public, press and civil society and beseech them to do its job for which it is mandated. What is the use of parliament one may ask? apart from being part of the problem that is destroying the trust the people have in government institutions? How many other budgets, appointees have been forced down the throats of tax payers without question? You hold the mandate to question the appropriation of funds, then when you get caught out for being a conduit for state capture you cry the proverbial crocodile tears.
We then go beyond casual observation to the allegations by the speaker that, the state is supplying rotten beans and expired milk to its citizen through powerful business persons. Such statements should not be taken lightly. It is tantamount to attempted murder. It shows the malaise that is entrenched in our politics and society, the hypocrisy, the hate for one’s own country and people.
If parliament was not caught out, would we know about the rotten food?
What other heinous acts of the government have been covered up?
What kind of society are we becoming that callously gives its own citizens life threatening food in time of need?
If we elected these kinds of people who are our brothers, friends, children…. what does that say about us as the electorate and as a country?
The Bank of Uganda [B.o.U] printing money saga, which like many serious incidents and a threat to the nations sovereignty that amount to state capture has been discarded to the history books. It was like a plot out of a political thriller involving the state, organisations and powerful individuals. And a bank governor whistleblowing on his own organisation! a first in B.o.U history. What did the Executive, legislature and judiciary have in common on the matter?
They all did nothing, B.o.U is at the heart of government, heads should have rolled, the apathy from all the arms of government alluded to the fact the captors were already in play. If the executive arm institutes a parallel institution to check the very institutions mandated by the constitution to police, the government. What does that say about the supposedly constitutionally elected government?
One fundamental problem is that many of our leaders[politicians] have no clear position or policy they stand for, apart from party affiliation and self-interest. Most if not all, if you are to ask them their own position on agriculture, trade, the environment, women’s rights, education etc I highly doubt they would be able to tell you. Making them easy prey for state captors and the deep state. Money is all they understand, money is the position they have unwavering conviction on. It is a travesty!
As Ugandans we must ask the tough questions to change the narrative and hold on to our beloved country Uganda, it is all we have got.
What kind of leaders do we want? Do we want a country run like a cartel?
A word of caution, apathy to the political discourse of the country casts you to the outskirts of the political narrative that you want.
About Author: Derick Tumusiime is a Ugandan writer based in the United Kingdom.