To every dark cloud is a silver lining. This is the basis for the crises being blessings in disguise maxim. The regime’s fresh eighty billion shillings plus handout to Speke Resort Munyonyo Hotel, though riddled with problems, is a blessing in disguise.
The same helps finally to leak the controversy surrounding a similar UGX12bn handout the government issued out previously, to businessman Sudhir Ruparelia, to use to refurbish the same facility. Because of the freshest handout, we now know the accounts for the former disbursement is irretrievably lost. It is understood the file containing the accounts was stolen and disappeared from the Finance ministry!
Just like that, no one in the government, it would seem, can be able to state conclusively if the value for money regarding use of the disbursement was ever carried out. In the same vein, no one will ever get to know going forward, if what was captured in the missing file was a true reflection of the actual spending that went on as the first disbursement was being applied.
But now that the accounts are stolen, it’s easy to see and tell something terribly bad could possibly have happened during the processes of applying the public funds. Some of the people entrusted to handle these funds right from the government strata down to their accomplices at Speke Resort, and elsewhere, are feared to have diverted some of these funds to personal enrichment.
To deny this, is to prompt us to ask for the restoration of the accounts in order for anyone to check out therein for the truth. Short of that, the case that some of the money was simply diverted for enrichment of some people, will be too compelling to resist. For what else would the mostly vital accounts disappear from the Finance strongroom, if not to destroy evidence of impropriety!
That the accounts are missing now, merits each and every taxpayer’s serious contemplation. We Ugandans living today are going to pay the huge price for these reckless borrowings by our leaders. So are our children and our grandchildren, and counting. At the same time, those accounts are said to be purportedly missing, the government has, on the other hand, already secured from the national assembly, a fresh approval of yet another handout worth eighty-six billion shillings for use still again, by Sudhir, to construct Speke Resort Conference Hall.
As if that is not absurd enough, the fresh handout is five times bigger than the one whose accounts had conveniently got stolen. Let me ask, rather belatedly, if there are no accounts for the earlier taxpayer’s money, what is the government’s motive in throwing yet more good money to such kinds of projects! Such a question is so relevant. The stolen accounts are in regard to billions of public funds. Yet, the same which appears to have been sunk into a modeless private enterprise.
Speke Resort, I stand to be collected, appears to be a private business. This humble view, since both the government and the Family of Sudhir Ruparelia are comfortable to say they are running a joint venture but only if they are doing so by word of mouth. But if pressed to table written proof in respect to the joint venture, the two will strangely and quickly feel offended and turn rebellious.
Yet one would ask; “what is wrong for the people’s representatives in the national assembly to ask for proof of ownership in respect of an enterprise where the government is battling to sink billions of public funds? If the joint venture is legit, why would anyone be really averse to tabling of proof thereof, for the consumption of the joint shareholders who in this case, are the wananchi of this country?
Talking from the background that government entered a joint venture deal with the family of Sudhir Ruparelia on behalf of the people of Uganda, it would sound so absurd for some of the owners of the business to be obstructed from accessing proof of their shareholding. That aside, just a few months back, Sudhir was discovered to be cheating the government out of dividends payable on account of its shareholding in Speke Resort Hotel, and on behalf of the ordinary Ugandans.
In rejoinder, Sudhir turned the buck to government. He asserted how the government were the ones to blame since they had not provided the accounts where he was supposed to deposit the dividends! That scenario may look minor to some of the people, but it goes to show that the joint venture is not without problems.
For why would, for instance, a well-meaning shareholder sit on the dividends of another fellow shareholder! Yet, he or she can easily open up an escrow account to hold such dividends! Why also, would, on the other hand, a shareholder holding the stake in trust for the citizens, neglect to collect the dividends as to enable the other party to hold the dividends due and owing and while using the same to earn more money?
Granted, government is giving to Sudhir the eighty-six billion shillings to build a bigger and better conference. But won’t the construction of a public hotel complex not be a much nicer idea than perpetually hanging out at a private facility? If Sudhir, Karim Hirji and such private people can build hotels being patronized by our leaders at a massive expense to the ordinary man, why can’t the same leaders use the taxpayer’s funds being splashed out on the private hotels` owners, to build public hotels?
By and large, the act of selling off public hotels before resorting to hanging out at those ones privately owned, is akin to the prodigal son who sold off all his inheritance and got away too far lands to enjoy his money, quickly got bankrupt before running back to his father. Imagine!
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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