Karamoja iron sheets scandal, we may miss the big corruption picture

I fear that even though it seems as if we are all over it, the manner in which we are talking about it and intervening on it, may result in those who should be held accountable getting away with the Karamoja iron sheets bonanza; and moreover with their loot as well.

Let us remember another of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) sagas, the one in which billions of shillings were stolen and only the OPM Principal Accountant, Geoffrey Kazinda was found guilty. This was despite the fact that several government officials in the OPM, Ministry of Finance and Bank of Uganda were named in connection with the stolen funds. Interestingly, one of Kazinda’s bosses ended up writing a book about ‘whistle blowing’; after which he was rewarded with a lateral promotion.

Certainly, lowly Kazinda could not have done it by himself. Anyway, he was given a five-year prison sentence for having forged signatures that led to the loss of taxpayers’ money worth 50 billion shillings. I am not certain whether Kazinda’s properties were auctioned off to recover the stolen money. I highly doubt so.

Back to the Karamoja iron sheets.

“On January 12 2023, Kitutu sent a memo to the OPM asking for a release of 12,200 iron sheets to her office. The iron sheets were released to her office and through her private assistant, a distribution of the iron sheets ensued as per a list of beneficiaries she had provided. The beneficiaries included Ministers: Jacob Oboth Oboth, Rebbeca Kadaga, Moriku Kaducu, Matia Kasaijja, Rukia Isanga Nakadama, and Amos Lugolobi among others.”

Crispus Mugisha in “Prime Minister Nabbanja speaks in tongues over iron sheets” in Nile Post

I beg your pardon, the beneficiaries on the list that the Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Hon. Dr. Mary Goretti Kitutu, submitted to OPM, included:

  • Hon. Jacob Oboth Oboth is Member of Parliament representing West Budama County, a constituency not in Karamoja; and nor is he a Karimojong.
  • Hon. Rebbeca Alitwala Kadaga is Woman Member of Parliament representing Kamuli District, a constituency not in Karamoja; and nor is she a Karimojong.
  • Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu is Woman Member of Parliament representing Moyo District, a constituency not in Karamoja; nor is she a Karimojong.
  • Hon. Matia Kasaijja is Member of Parliament representing Buyanja County; a constituency not in Karamoja; and nor is he a Karimojong.
  • Hon. Lukia Isanga Nakadama is Woman Member of Parliament representing Mayuge District, a constituency not in Karamoja, nor is she a Karimojong.
  • Hon. Amos Lugoloobi is Member of Parliament representing Ntenjeru North, a constituency not in Karamoja, nor is he a Karimojong.

If it is true that these six members of parliament were on the beneficiary list that the minister provided, were they aware that they were listed as among beneficiaries of iron sheets meant for Karamoja and Karimojong?

If so, they should immediately resign as members of parliament and from whatever public offices that they currently hold. They should also be made to return brand new iron sheets in kind or in cash. These demands also hold true if the six members of parliament did not know that their names had been included on the beneficiary list, but accepted the iron sheets, without question. It is the Parliament of Uganda that is supposed to check the other arms of government, how then can these seemingly corrupt members of parliament execute that role?

It is not enough for OPM to blame the Minister for Karamoja Affairs for the diversion of the iron sheets meant for Karamoja. The minister’s requisition should never have been approved while the beneficiary list had places not in Karamoja and had people not Karimojong.

Why is it the minister’s requisition? Why isn’t it a requisition that was prepared by the technocrats working in the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs? Best practice surely is that the technocrats in the Ministry are the ones to do the necessary paperwork in accordance with the appropriate laws and rules – Public Finance Accountability Act and Procurement Laws.

Ideally, it is the technocrats working in the Ministry who should submit such paperwork to the technocrats at OPM for approval. Similarly, once approved, the technocrats at OPM would release the approved funds and materials to the requesting technocrats for implementation. However, since in each district their is a Disaster Management Committee, it would appear that it would have been more transparent and efficient for OPM to insist that the Ministry distribute the iron sheets through the district disaster management committees of the Karamoja region.

Following implementation, both sets of technocrats are accountable. Who are the responsible technocrats in both the OPM and the Ministry of Karamoja Affairs that handled the Karamoja iron sheets? It is they whom we should hold fully accountable. It is they who are the root cause of the problem – for releasing finances and materials to persons not authorized to receive them; and for not ensuring that the appropriate laws are followed. Which begs the question, why did they do so?

Until our fight against corruption moves beyond the symptoms and to root causes, we must expect more OPM corruption scandals. After all, as was the case with Kazinda, the lowly officers will continue to be sacrificed while the real ‘big fish’, who are the cancer, will continue to disenfranchise us of the public good for their own personal gain. Read more of my views on this in “Ineffective corruption fight deals with symptoms & not root causes.”

Profiled photo @ USAWA Frontiers participants at the 2nd Karamoja girl’s and women’s conference held from 19th to 21st December 2022 at Leslona Hotel Moroto. The Minister for Karamoja Affairs was invited, confirmed she would participate, but she did not show up and did not send an explanation why not.

One response to “Karamoja iron sheets scandal, we may miss the big corruption picture”

  1. Overall corruption in Uganda has not been dealt with the strength it deserves regardless of the laws that exist in the country, the laws have become for decorations as the president continues giving lipservice in his fight against corruption.

    We have not quantified the effects of corruptionin the essence of losing lives and properties,
    This group of well positioned, well paid with out taxes, well privilaged, and of high status gang to steal from Karamoja at the height of insecurity and hunger were we lost not less than 6,000 people, what more is difficult for them to do? They are a complete bunch of shameless thieves and a disgrace to all generations to come in Uganda

    Dealing with the root cause of corruption will make great strides in fighting it, what happens in Uganda is the lower cadres pay while the big shots get moved to other sectors/ministries/departments to continue with the rot.

    Actually Ministry positions shouldn’t be given to elected politicians serving their term, they focus more on taking advantage of the position to focus to their constituents. The two ministers from Karamoja knew of this loot but focused on making their districts benefit rather treating Karamoja as a block, really sad!

    All ministers including the Vice President and the Speaker should be relieved their duties, we can’t have people who take advantage of the vulnerabilities of their flock to rob them hold key positions in the country, where is their honour? They largely contributed to the lives and properties Karamoja lost between June to date due to insecurity and hunger.


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