As the campaign trail gains momentum, the question of the message that different candidates are selling out to their respective audiences should be a matter of concern to all Ugandans.
It should be the substance and not form of each candidate’s pledges that should inform the tone of our debates.
The feasibility of each pronouncement should be rigorously assessed. This is why after listening to some of them; I take serious exception to the campaign statements of Dr Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi.
The latter, in an attempt to absolve himself of any failings in his long-time of service in government, has severally told his audiences that he had no authority to do anything of value for all the time he served in government. I will return to this later.
While the former (Dr Besigye) has concentrated on his usual doom prophesies for Uganda and NRM and added on two interesting pledges to the voters.
Besiege has promised, that if elected as president, he will increase the salaries of primary school teachers to sh1m per month and abolish the position of RDC. Let us analyse these key messages point by point and candidate by candidate.
Besigye and his sh1m teachers’ pay rise
In my previous article, I clearly demonstrated the failed mathematics of the sh1m pledge to teachers by Besigye.
Unless he disapproves the scientific logic I articulated, his sh1m promise to teachers is just mere campaign rhetoric that shouldn’t excite anyone. For purposes of those that could have missed that particular article, this is what I wrote in part;
“The talk of Besigye and company, therefore, about pledging to spend more on consumption; for better service delivery, better wages for civil servants and generally better living conditions must be followed with the talk about economic strategy or else the hard won economic gains and the shocks mitigated over the years will be recklessly wasted away.
It is good for Dr Besigye to pledge sh1m per month for a primary teacher. And with the current numbers of about 130,000 government enrolled teachers, sh1m per month per teacher translates to sh130b per month and sh1.6trillion per year.
While this would be a good dream for the teachers, the question here is: How will Besigye finance sustainably that huge recurrent expenditure without causing adverse effects to the economy? Will he order job cuts? Will he not pay and increase salaries of other equally deserving civil servants (doctors, nurses, police, army etc) some of whom earn much less than a primary school teacher? Or will Besigye quadruple the current tax rates so as to raise the required revenues? If this becomes his strategy, still the anticipated income won’t be realised since business outfits will no longer be profitable because of the prohibitive tax rates and will close shop! Either way, his promise becomes untenable.”
Besigye and RDCs
The other pledge of Besigye is to scrap off the office of RDCs.
Serious questioning here is also required. Why abolish RDCs who play the supervisory and monitoring role on behalf of central government in the districts, so as to ensure detection of service delivery anomalies and defects in real time? Real time detection of project anomalies as opposed to end point/post project audits that are more or less postmortem, enables early corrective measures and thus mitigates losses much more efficiently. So logically speaking, why would RDCs with such a mandate, become a problem to Besigye?
The significance of the office of an RDC, was well debated in the CA where Besigye sat and actively influenced business and it was found to be crucial, given the fact that the decentralised districts were not like independent federal states capable of raising their own budget revenues. The central government, which finances the budgets of these districts almost 100% from the national treasury, had to put in place a mechanism to know how their various expenditure votes are performing.
That is how the role of an RDC, as an inspector of performance, was appreciated and provided for in article 203 of the constitution. Their (RDCs) existence, therefore, is not just as a result of a presidential decree or through some ministerial instrument of subsidiary legislation.
It is provided for by the supreme law-the constitution.
Besigye was not only in the CA, but worked as a national political commissar – an office that was responsible for deploying, training and supervising RDCs. How come in his both capacities as a CA delegate that voted to create the position of RDC in the constitution and NPC, the in charge of RDCs then, never mooted a proposal to abolish the office of an RDC, in case he found its relevance wanting?
People in the districts know the importance of the RDC’s office in as fostering accountability is concerned. The community based Baraza accountability platforms for example, are run by RDCs. At these barazas, RDCs launch start and end of projects in full view of community beneficiaries. Where anomalies are detected, contractors/ suppliers are ordered to repeat the works and their completion certificates are withheld. This is what RDcs do in the communities and they have to a great extent prevented diversion and wastage of public resources through their regular field inspections.
If all projects and programmes of government can be officially launched and explained to the beneficiaries both at the start and end of works, accountability will be achieved. If all the budget money (including the off budget projects that normally come from donors) can be followed and assessed based on the stated outputs in real time as implementation of the planned activities goes on, then leakages and diversions can be significantly curtailed. This will be the real and good preventive strategy to fight corruption.
This is what RDCs are expected of and have been tasked to do. If some of them are not doing their work, then that is a different matter. That would be individual weakness calling for administrative sanctions but it cannot justify the scraping of a whole institution provided for by the constitution. Otherwise, Besigye can as well reason, that because some MPs absentee themselves from attending plenary sittings, then parliament as an institution should be abolished.
The logic there doesn’t add up. To the contrary, and far from Besigye’s notion, RDCs deserve more support and capacity building so as to create a strong inspection system at community level. Corruption will not be fought by mere political rhetoric but through such workable proposals.
Mbabazi and his claim of powerlessness
Then there is the famous claim by Amama Mbabazi that he didn’t have authority to influence any reforms and innovation on any policy issues in government.
I find it laughable and real blasphemy to say the least. What then was he doing that long, if he had no authority to push anything of value? What can he show as any policy ideas that he mooted in all his various capacities and were shot down unreasonably by President Museveni? To the contrary, those who worked closely with him or followed his role in influencing government decisions will clearly reveal how his influence was enormous.
He would make or break any body and anything as he deemed fit. He was a multi- sectoral minister without borders. Any idea you would tell the President he would refer you to Mbabazi first before any decision can be made on it.
From being nicknamed super minister, kingmaker and regarded as someone who influenced all government appointments including cabinet, making a claim that he never had authority, is being out rightly dishonest and cover up for his own lack of innovation.
He served the Government with full authority from his boss not to talk of the unfettered lavish favours and sometimes excessive pampering he enjoyed. In fact many historical comrades that fell out of favour with the establishment owe their bitterness all to him for having schemed their way out so as to enjoy unlimited space and access to the boss.
Why would he, therefore, not push any reforms or introduce any innovation that we can now trace back to him as his legacy defining mark? I find this rather intriguing! If President Museveni was his obstacle as he now claims, why didn’t he resign or make his frustrations public for the common good of all? The fact is Mbabazi was eventually sacked. He had so much opportunity that he cannot adequately account for now.
His campaign narrative, therefore, that he is the new messiah and a person for a new UGANDA does not convincingly resonate well with the reality that many know about him.
Atleast we can trace certain policy and programme initiatives to some of our leaders, history has recorded as champions. For example, we can attach decentralisation to Jaberi Bidandi Ssali, health systems reform to Dr Crispus Kiyonga, deadly LRA peace negotiations to Ndugu Rugunda, Karamoja development and communal mindset change reforms to Janet Museveni, commercial upland rice campaign to Prof Bukenya, education reforms to Prof Kajubi, NAADS to Dr Kisamba Mugerwa, anti-privatisation of UCB to Dr Suruma, construction of army housing units using cheap affordable means to late Brig Mayombo in his short time as PS of defence, UPDF professionalisation and ID project revamping to Late Gen Aronda.
What is it and with due respect, that we can attach to Mbabazi in his long government service, that can now give hope to the voters to believe him and expect a positive and fundamental turnout of things under his presidency when voted? This is the honest debate we want as the campaigns progress.
The challengers of Museveni must go beyond emotive pronouncements. They have ridden too much on their horse of the “Museveni agende” slogan and that horse is now too exhausted to take them any longer. They have to find other means to ride on. Ugandans have seen and tested progress.
All they want now is how to sustain that progress and take it faster. Whoever presides over the country as President and Commander-in- Chief is not their worry. It is the “what”, the “how” and not the “who” that matters most!
Let us all be aware and say no to emotions and sentiments of wrong ideologies in this campaign.
On another note, I say bravo, Apwoyo Matek, Apwoyo Tic, to the people (Wun me Nothern Uganda) of Northern Uganda. Your a rousing welcome to candidate Yoweri Museveni- the man- with hat, was instructive and reassuring. The numbers of your mammoth crowds certainly can’t lie. Victory is for sure certain. Aluta continua!
Frank Tumwebaze, the writer is the Minister in Charge of the Presidency and Kampala Capital City, Government of Uganda and Member of Parliament for Kibale County in Kamwenge District