Uganda orders probe into “rats” who stole $1.2bn from road works

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni (pictured), has directed investigators immediately to start "hunting down" whoever misappropriated nearly $1.2bn set aside for building roads in the country.

Describing the perpetrators as "rats", Museveni issued the decree this week on 25 May after a comprehensive report by the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) revealed that at least four trillion Ugandan shillings ($1.19bn) had vanished.

He called on the country’s Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the director of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department (CIID) to get to work right away.

"I did not know that educated people lack integrity," President Museveni said, according to newspaper Daily Monitor. "I am now happy that the IGG and CIID are now going to crash this corruption."

He added: "I thought after [Idi] Amin, Ugandans should be in position to run their country. But this lack of integrity clearly was linked to absence of supervision; now execution agencies should go ahead."

I thought after Idi Amin, Ugandans should be in position to run their country– Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

The 1,300-page report, submitted by UNRA commission chairperson Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, recommended criminal sanctions against at least 90 people, as well as recovery of assets.

Presenting the report, Bamugemereire drew attention to cost of building roads in Uganda, which she said was exorbitant compared with other countries in the region.

Among other comparisons, she said the cost of road sub-base in Uganda was 221% higher than the corresponding cost in Rwanda.

But she also said a subculture of "dramatic wheeling and dealing" in the sector, including by the UNRA itself, had had a terrible impact.

She said that of nine trillion shillings allocated to the UNRA over the last seven years – before it was restructured – at least four trillion had been "misappropriated" in dubious deals, notably through collusion between UNRA staff and contractors.

The report identifies "dramatic wheeling and dealing, insider trading and outright fraud through dubious payments for no work done as corruption was cascaded downwards".

Bamugemereire also blamed flaws in the procurement system, payment in foreign currencies, premature road failures and delayed reform measures.

As a result, only 1,500km of roads had been built in the period, when at least 5,147km of roads should have been built.

"It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that both statistically and technically the government and people of Uganda did not get value for money," her report states, according to the Monitor, "or that they have been defrauded of a staggering 4 trillion odd shillings, an amount which could have constructed an additional 3,647km of new paved/tarmac roads."

In January the World Bank took the unprecedented step of cancelling funding for a major road project in Uganda, while suspending two other transport schemes in the country, following local outcry over sexual abuse by foreign contractors.

Photograph: Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2008 (Wikimedia Commons)

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