Depending on which side of the political divide you stand, you either love or hate Hon. Betty Nambooze Bakireke the Member of Parliament for Mukono Municipality. But you cannot ignore her. If you are an opposition sympathizer, you are inclined to think of her as a crusader of the down trodden and luckless. If you are NRM-leaning, she comes across as loud, abrasive and irritating.
Like all politicians do once in a while, she is prone to making wild and unsubstantiated claims. But she understands her constituency and panders to it. Hon. Nambooze is witty, articulate has the ‘gift of the garb’. Her tongue has managed to both get her into parliament and into trouble. When you listen to her, you cannot fail to see the rough unfinished gem she is. Ironically, Nambooze is also a child of the NRM revolution who cut her marbles at the open ‘bimeeza’ or citizens’ colloquiums that lifted many to parliament. As she blames the NRM for its failures, she ought to know that she has profited from the freedom of speech that it ushered in.
Be that as it may, it was intriguing to read in the New Vision of October 2, 2018 (page 10) that the Inspector General of Government (IGG) was still pursuing her. It is alleged that in 2003 or thereabouts, she solicited a bribe of Shs. 100,000 (about US $ 30) to issue a letter authorizing a Mukono town dweller to build a two-roomed house in Katete village. On January 28, 2004 (according to the news report) Hon. Nambooze was acquitted of the offence of corruption. But the IGG is dissatisfied with the judgment and intends to appeal that acquittal.
I picked interest in this news item for two reasons. One was the issue of materiality (form over substance) and two the fact that I have had my own brushes with the IGG which, shall we say, left me with a very low opinion of her professionalism and impartiality.
On the first point, it is inconceivable that with all the matters in her docket, the IGG chooses to continue chasing small fry. For being accused of taking ’30 pieces of silver’ Hon. Nambooze has been chased down for the last 15 years at what must be a considerable cost. Since the IGG’s office is a charge on the consolidated fund, one cannot fail to appreciate that it has a limited resource envelope which it ought to deploy more judiciously (no pun intended). I do not know whether the Hon. Nambooze did take the 30 pieces of silver or not, but I do recall a case in which Justice John Katutsi (retired) wryly remarked that he was tired of eating small fish. Where were the crocodiles that were roaming scot-free?
On the second point, while I was chairman of Uganda Development Bank, we had several run-ins with the IGG. The first time she phoned me, she assured me how she would arrest me if I did not reverse certain board decisions. Over the course of time, she went on to arrest our staff and prosecute them in the courts of law. Her concerns and actions, valid or otherwise, could have been addressed administratively. Through her vindictiveness, loans worth US $ 10m were withdrawn from UDB by Afreximbank. Our reputations were bruised and battered over matters that I am certain to this day she did not comprehend. The courts did find her cause wanting and delivered judgment in our favour. Unfortunately, in matters financial, the Bank’s reputation had been dealt a bloody nose and it took us sometime to recover.
This kind of behavior calls into question our ability as professionals to do what is best for Uganda. Many technocrats hide incompetence under the blanket of political interference. Is the IGG unable to see how her actions sully the office she bears? Let her be reminded that ‘Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion’.
Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Abacus Business School Twitter @samuesejjaaka