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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Why public money will continue to be stolen with impunity

29th April 2012

Indeed a demon is haunting our beloved nation. We are talking about the calculated and most often syndicated conspiracy to squander public money and plunder the nation’s natural resources. Key players in the dirty and deadly game are public officials, big businesspersons and, of course, foreign companies posing as investors.

I believe you don’t put me to task to adduce evidence to prove the above assertion that is the existence of a conspiracy to ruin our motherland.

The latest report by the Controller and Auditor General on the state of the nation’s books of accounts for the year 2010/2011 and those unveiled a few days ago by two relevant Parliamentary Committees tell the whole story of billions of money going down the drain, thanks to unpatriotic looters and their foreign partners.

Other tell-tale signs include the hot debate the demon generated during the just ended parliamentary session in Dodoma, the fact that the current Prime Minister has a noose around his neck due to this very problem, and the countrywide storm spurred by this disturbing national issue.

There are many angles to approach the crisis brought about by the demon. Key questions, however, revolve around its genesis, impact and the way forward. Allow me to participate in the debate by giving hints on why stealing public money with impunity is a problem we are likely to live with for quite some time - probably several years.

One can easily come up with at least eight reasons to validate the above expressed viewpoint. First, unfortunate as it may be, but there is this unwarranted and illogical mentality that public property is no one’s property. Thus most of those who steal public money or misuse the nation’s natural resources do so without feeling guilty, mainly due this kind of thinking which is now too deep-rooted to be erased in the near future.

Related to reason number one is the fact that white collar criminals, unlike armed robbers and other thieves, are neither stigmatized by society nor being considered as highly dangerous elements. Instead, the “sophisticated” thieves seem to enjoy some public appreciation and are expected to contribute handsomely during all sorts of fundraising events. Sophisticated thieves get praises whenever they throw crumbs to the very people they have robbed.

Third, the corruption bug which manifests itself in various forms of moral decadency, has so much contaminated our socio-economic and political blood that purification of the system is quite a challenge which will take time to overcome, especially when it happens that the captains of corruption control state affairs and are not ready to commit suicide, much as their shameful death is inevitable. In other words we are stuck into this mess mainly because there is little political will to fight it squarely.

Fourth, methinks laws on fighting corruption are not deterrent enough. A public servant steals billions of money through all sorts of tricks. He/She happens to be caught and is imprisoned for three or even five years after which he or she becomes a free person and enjoys the ill-gotten wealth. Who says the words of wisdom that “crime does not pay “are applicable in our midst? We can argue on this until cows come home. Things become more complicated when the corridors of justice also happen to be havens of corruption.

Fifth, is the fact that public officials have too much say on the nation’s resources, reflected, among other things, in their role in land distribution, issuance of all sorts of licenses for mining, hunting, forest harvest, entering into contracts on behalf of the nation under procedures which are not all that transparent, and you name.

Unless we come up with systems which limit their powers on national resources and make them accountable for decisions they make and the actions they take, looting will continue unabated.

Lack of accountability culture is well demonstrated in the current storm where there has been pressure on several Ministers to resign due to the rotting skeletons found in their ministerial cupboards by legal and authoritative state inspectors. The whole drama has ended into an anti-climax simply because accountability culture is lacking in society.

Maybe some of these issues will be addressed in the envisaged new constitution. But given the alarming rate of ongoing plunder of resources, we might end up closing the gate after the proverbial horse has escaped.


Henry Muhanika is a Media consultant

Email: [email protected]

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