The Observer (Kampala)

15 November 2012

Uganda: Harry Sagara - Let's Legalise Corruption

opinion

A friend, who recently participated in the anti-corruption crusade that was busted by the police, was grumbling about the rampant corruption in the country (killing my beer appetite in the process).

He was miffed by the fact that everyone, right from our leaders, is a day time robber who pilfers taxpayers' money without any sense of remorse. He blamed this kind of wanton theft for the country's snail-pace development. "Can you imagine you have to bribe someone to get anything done in a public office?" he lamented.

On this point I disagreed with him; I have heard things done in public offices and I can attest to the fact that not everyone in Uganda accepts bribes. In fact the IGG's office and the anti-corruption court have a list of government officials who have never accepted bribes and I hear they are going to give them awards (and perhaps KATONGA medals).

However, if you want to know these Ugandans who have never taken bribes write to the IGG and make sure you enclose a token of appreciation, preferably in form of Shs 50, 000 bills -the more you enclose the more likely the response.

Truthfully, there are millions of Ugandans who have never taken bribes; they are called THE POOR. Although they have little dime, they have to pay off others to maintain their basic livelihoods. They will pay the taxman so that the President can have a Shs 6bn car; they will pay the Pastor so that he buys that state of the art automobile and a new suit; and they will pay the policeman so that he can buy more teargas.

Corruption unfortunately knows no class, religion or tribe. It is like an epidemic. From the President (of a club or association) to the First Lady (of Zimbabwe), everyone has a price and being caught in a corruption scandal will not scathe them especially since they will find someone else to bribe.

This could be a parliamentarian on the Public Accounts Committee, a high court judge or even the head of the police. I think Uganda as a country has failed to curb this rampaging vice and in truth, I advise the government to embrace it with both hands.

Let's legalize the damn thing! Let's be honest with ourselves and accept it as part and parcel of our societal values. For example, if a public officer is caught dishing out a bribe, he can prove his innocence by saying: "That was not a bribe. That was a donation!" Then he can go ahead and donate whatever he wants to that busy doctor at Mulago to pay him attention and he can donate money to all the journalists to write favourable stories about him.

At this rate husbands will give car and house donations to their wives in order to have children. Ministers will donate public funds to themselves. After we embrace and legalize it, the movement of the stolen funds will be easy to monitor.

Government would then come up with awards for thief of the year. And after one has been crowned as number one thief in the country, we then ask that person to invest the stolen money in Uganda and employ Ugandans to complete the project.

The only crime here would be for someone to steal, say $ 70 million and then invest the money in China (that would be treason punishable by firing squad). And all these anti-corruption NGO's would be sent out of Uganda as the country heads to the dogs.

Personally, I have always believed that there is NO CORRUPTION IN UGANDA (and I am being paid to say this) Yes, The Observer pays me!

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