Confess and get amnesty or hide, get caught and face a tortuous punishment.
That is the advice President Museveni offered to corrupt civil servants when he met the NRM caucus MPs on Saturday at State House, Entebbe. It was the second meeting in a week and, according to MPs who attended, the president said he can forgive public servants who confess to corruption or aiding corruption, but not those who are caught stealing.
The MPs said that Museveni, who seemed upbeat, emphasized: “This time I am going to be very tough about crushing corruption. I want you MPs to help me crush it. This is the time to eradicate that menace.”
The president reportedly said that some government officials are already complaining about his tough stance on corruption and warned that he is going to get tougher unless the thieves confess and return the loot.
“For those civil servants who have been engaging in corruption, this is the time to confess. If we gave amnesty to those that fought government, especially during the LRA war, how about those who confess to corruption? And you MPs, ministers and all civil servants should be careful. You shouldn’t be money-hungry. Be ready to work hard for the people who elected you,” the president reportedly said.
Sources added that he wants culpable civil servants jailed and their properties sold.
The president also talked up his pet subject, Uganda climbing into the middle-income category by 2020, and the priorities that need to be emphasized. The president also announced three additions to the 20 priority programmes recently approved by cabinet at its inaugural meeting.
The president later gave a copy of the 23 programmes to the government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa to distribute to all NRM and NRM-leaning independent MPs to read, discuss and know how to implement them.
Sources said that among the 23 programmes, the president emphasized the fight against corruption, availability of electricity power at reduced cost and cheaper railway transport.
“We need to get our priorities right. When I needed help from late Muammar Gaddafi, he asked me what I wanted…he offered me clothes, I refused, he offered me money, I refused, he offered me [army] uniforms, I refused because my priority was ammunition and with that I fought and won the battle. We need to get our priorities right if we want success,” he said.
Museveni said he wanted ammunition because when Uganda is secure, people can get services but without security, “you will be running up and down and you won’t be able to provide water, education and others.”
Some MPs applauded the president’s resolve to fight corruption while others described his speech as “his usual song” on corruption.
“For him to have talked about amnesty to the corrupt, it means the investigations could have indicated that his brother or a relative is in a corruption scandal. We agreed that whoever is caught should go to jail and his properties auctioned to get back public funds. How do you again amend something you have not implemented?” said one MP who attended the caucus but declined to be named.