Speaking in Masindi last week, Museveni virtually defended corrupt civil servants and politicians, saying they also greatly contribute to national development by investing in the country money they swindle from public coffers. By thus investing, the President said, the thieves build the national economy.
The President was presiding over the passing out of 238 Police officers who had completed a three-month operational commanders’ course at the Kabalye-based Police Training School. The graduands included 46 officers from Sudan.
The opposition and donors have often criticised the Museveni government over what they see as lack of political will to fight corruption. The donors in particular have cited the misuse of money meant for the 2007 Commonwealth summit (CHOGM), and the Global Fund, among others, to make their point.
In Masindi, although Museveni directed the Police to crack down on corrupt officials, it was ultimately not clear how much he meant what he said because, in the same lecture, he turned around and defended corrupt government officials.
“In 1986 we inherited a very small resource envelope for the country—the country was collecting Shs 5 billion from tax, today we are collecting Shs 5,000 billion but much of it is [stolen] by corrupt civil servants and politicians,” Museveni said.
The President added: “These thieves also build the country, but in a disorganised way; they swindle money and build houses; yes, they are also contributing to the development of the country but in a disorganised way.”
Later on Saturday, while presiding over the 2010 CNN Multichoice African Journalism Awards at Kampala Serena Hotel, Museveni said corruption was not one of the strategic bottlenecks to development. He said there were some African countries that were run impeccably – the Christian type – that were still underdeveloped.
Museveni accused the Police force of being inefficient in investigating crime, especially corruption. He directed CID officers at all levels to work with the Auditor General’s Office to investigate cases of corruption and bring culprits to book.
“You deploy agents in health centres, to report public officials who are stealing our drugs. Why are you inefficient in this technological era?” Museveni wondered.
He said corruption had increased the cost of doing business in Uganda due to bribery. He said he had won the war on resources but is being let down by people who are swindling public resources. Besides bribery, the President said that investor confidence was affected by the Police’s failure to investigate other crimes such as murder.
However, officers blamed the inefficiency on few personnel in the force, saying they are often overhelmed by the volume of work. Museveni said he will recruit more Police officers after addressing national priorities such as electricity generation. Uganda, he said, has about 36,000 Police officers instead of the required 60,000.
“The Police, civilian ratio is supposed to be 1:500 (one Police officer per 500 people); going by our population you are still few, we shall increase the number but you should also be efficient,” Museveni said.
He added that government planned to recruit 16,000 temporary officers to Police the 2011 general elections.
The President also said that he is working to eradicate peasantry. “In our family, Mzee Kaguta is the last peasant, no more peasants in our family; we are still pursuing our goal of social economic development; future Ugandans will be either in middle class or skilled,” the President said.