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EU donors freeze aid to Uganda over corruption


Bloomberg News

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — More Western donors are freezing aid to Uganda after a scam in which up to $13 million in donor money was embezzled in the office of Uganda’s prime minister. The aid freeze is the kind of action long demanded by transparency campaigners who charge that the money oils a corrupt system.

Uganda has a reputation as a corrupt country, but the latest scandal — brought to light by the country’s auditor general in October — is remarkable for its details: More than $220,000 was spent on gas in four days, millions of dollars were diverted to buy luxury vehicles for top officials, and millions were deposited into individuals’ private accounts.

Because the money was for the rehabilitation of parts of northern Uganda devastated by decades of warlord Joseph Kony‘s brutal insurgency, the scandal has provoked a lasting rage around the country and inspired aid cuts that foreign donors had been reluctant to inflict on this East African country.

Roberto Ridolfi, the head of the European Union delegation to Uganda, said in a statement late Tuesday that the scandal and those before it amounted to “a breach of trust” on the part of Ugandan authorities. Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Britain and Denmark have already cut or cancelled all aid to Uganda over the scam, saying they have lost faith in the government’s capacity to spend money responsibly.

Western donors fund up to 25 percent of Uganda’s budget.

Ridolfi said the EU and its development partners in Uganda “will withhold pending budget support disbursements and any further commitments for an initial period of up to (six) months.”

The donors are giving Uganda until April to pay back all the lost money, investigate the scandal, and take action against all the suspects. But investigations of this nature, when they happen, rarely produce the intended results in Uganda, where corruption charges are often politicized and then dismissed. This year three ministers with close ties to President Yoweri Museveni who faced corruption charges were set free by a judge who said they were scapegoats. The three politicians swiftly returned to their jobs […]

Some campaigners who had long urged donors to act tougher against official waste and graft say the audacity of the latest scandal vindicates their calls for the dismantling of an often-comfortable relationship between the state and its donors. They want foreign aid to be channeled through non-state actors engaged in service delivery and for donors to work directly with contractors in cases where the authorities cannot be trusted with cash.

“For the first time the donors are coming out and putting clear benchmarks and I think it’s a good move,” said Cissy Kagaba of the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda, a watchdog group. “But there are other alternatives they can use to ensure that the money reaches the intended beneficiaries.” Read the full article here.

Gauteng Civil Society Marches for Nuclear – Free South Africa


AllAfrica.com

November 12, 2012

PRESS RELEASE

Thousands of people from civil society groups across Gauteng today took part in a march to protest against South Africa’s nuclear expansion plans. The activists marched from Pieter Roos Park to Beyers Naude Square, where they handed over a memorandum to the Presidency. Smaller protests and placard demonstrations happened simultaneously in Durban, Cape Town and Bantamsklip.

Members of Earthlife Africa, Greenpeace Africa, Justice and Peace, and Ceasefire formed the alliance with the purpose to raise concerns about the cost of the new build project, the safety of nuclear power and the lack of transparency and accountability in the nuclear sector.

According to Earthlife Africa’s Makoma Lekalakala “The country’s new nuclear build is estimated to be at least R1 trillion in public funds. The cost for the nuclear infrastructure build will ultimately be passed down to South Africans which means we are heading for devastating poverty amongst millions of already impoverished South Africans”

Since Fukushima, several countries around the world have moved away from nuclear energy. While the world sees nuclear as dangerous and unsafe, the South African government approved a nuclear expansion plan barely a month after the Fukushima disaster and has remained adamant that this is the best option for the country.

“Government has refused to listen to the people. They can ignore a few but they cannot ignore thousands. It is irresponsible for the South African government to want to expose their people to the threats of nuclear contamination as we recently witnessed in Fukushima” said Greenpeace Africa’s climate and energy campaigner Ferrial Adam.

There has been little public information on the procurement and tender processes. The Department of Energy is set to make the largest state expenditure in South Africa’s history. At the moment, the Department’s procurement of energy, especially with the procurement of renewable energy in the REBID process, has been opaque at best.

Civil Society will be watching the nuclear energy procurement process very closely. The nuclear industry has often functioned under a veil of secrecy. We have the right to know and we will demand that the procurement processes are open and transparent. The era of secret deals like the arms deal must come to an end” added Adam.

“Ultimately we want the government to heed our call for just energy solutions. Nuclear energy is not the answer,” concluded Lekalakala.

Spies in Africa’s Skies: New Contractors for the Pentagon


CorpWatch.org

By Patrap Chatterjee

June 18th, 2012

In 1994, a Turkish couple named Fatih and Emren Ozmen, bought up a nondescript company named Sierra Nevada Corporation in the small town of Sparks, just outside of Reno, Nevada.

Just over a decade later, on the other side of the country, in Eatontown, New JerseyScott Crockett and David Lewis, two African-American communications officers who were deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, started up a company called R-4, Inc.

Today these two companies are now at the forefront of the covert war in Africa, where they operate small Swiss aircraft to spy on behalf of the U.S. Special Operations Command. They help support secret missions all over the continent, working most closely with AfriCom, the U.S. command for Africa, run out of Stuttgart, Germany.

The Ozmens company and R-4 work for Operation Tusker Sand, run out of Entebbe, Uganda. A similar mission using private pilots named Operation Creek Sand is run out of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A Washington Post series by Craig Whitlock, with help from ace researcher Julie Tate, has unmasked some of the key details of the African spying operation that includes covert U.S. bases in Arba Minch, Ethiopia; Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti; Nouakchott, Mauritania; Manda Bay, Kenya; Nzara, South Sudan and Victoria, Seychelles.

The Ozmens have grown from a 20 person operation in 1994 to a 2,100 employee outfit today. Their pilots fly Pilatus PC-12s, small Swiss turboprop planes which are “(e)quipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals, the planes refuel on isolated airstrips favored by African bush pilots, extending their effective flight range by thousands of miles,” according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper says that contractors have been hired to fly as much as 150 hours a month. Also outsourced to the private sector were sensor operators, intelligence analysts, mechanics and linguists. (One of the companies that supplied linguists to the Pentagon in Africa was Mission Essential Personnel)

The road to growth for the Ozmens might have something to do with the fact that they are close friends with Jim Gibbons, the former governor of Nevada, and his wife Dawn Gibbons, whom they took on a holiday in Turkey in 2000. Gibbons was a member of the U.S. Congress at the time and the Las Vegas Review Journal notes that in mid-2004 “he helped Sierra Nevada get a $2 million no-bid federal contract for helicopter landing technology. Throughout that year, the company was paying Dawn Gibbons $2,500 a month as a public relations consultant.” That year the Ozmens company won $42 million in Pentagon contracts.

In 2007, when Gibbons became governor, the federal government investigated how the Ozmens won their classified Pentagon contracts. Dawn Gibbons was unapologetic. “Sierra Nevada got a bargain for the work I did. … Believe me, they got their money’s worth,” she told the Associated Press.

What was their company selling at the time? A system called Force 4 which “offers real-time video, individual emergency response tracking, two-way voice and message traffic with command center interaction for terrorism preparedness and response.”

Today Sierra Nevada is one of the key contractors in the drone war around the world. They sell Tactilink, a voice and data relay system for drones, they support Gorgon Stare, a multi-camera video suite touted for its ability to spy on whole cities at once and they make landing gear for the Predator drones that the Central Intelligence Agency uses in Pakistan and Yemen to kill “terrorists” from the sky.

The Pentagon and the CIA have long used private contractors for covert wars. Air America and Air Asia were the front companies used to bomb Cambodia and Laos for president Lyndon Johnson. Bigger, more established companies, like Northrop Grumman were used to spy in Colombia under president Bill Clinton

So it seems only appropriate that the next major Democratic president, Barack Obama, would adopt the same strategy of clandestine private contractors like Sierra Nevada and R4 for covert wars, this time in Africa.

Africa land deals lead to water giveaway


guardian.co.uk

By Mark Tran

June 12, 2012

Africa heads for ‘hydrological suicide’ as land deals hand water resources to foreign firms, threatening environmental disaster.

Millions of people will lose access to traditional sources of water because of “land grabs” in Africa, according to a report on Monday that looks behind the scramble for farmland in Africa.

The report: Squeezing Africa dry: behind every land grab is a water grab, shows how land deals, covering millions of acres of fertile lands, also pose a threat to Africa’s fresh water systems.

“If these land grabs are allowed to continue, Africa is heading for a hydrological suicide,” said Henk Hobbelink, co-ordinator of Grain, a group that backs small farmers.

The report – the latest to raise the alarm over competition for scarce water resources – said all land deals in Africa involve large-scale industrial agriculture operations that will consume massive amounts of water, could rob millions of people of their access to water and risk the depletion of the continent’s most precious water sources.

Grain cites the Nile and Niger river basins as two examples of the “giveaway” of land and water rights. Three of the bigger countries in the Nile basis – Ethiopia, South Sudan and Egypt – have already leased out millions of hectares in the basin. Citing figures from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Grain said these made clear that recent land deals vastly outstrip water availability in Nile basis.

According to Grain, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Egypt already have irrigation infrastructures in place for 5.4 million hectares (13 million acres) of land and have now leased out a further 8.6 million hectares of land.

“This would require much more water than what is available now in the entire Nile basin and would amount to no less than hydrological suicide,” said the report.

In the Niger river basin, independent experts believe Mali has the water capacity to irrigate only 250,000 hectares. Yet, said Grain, the Malian government has already signed over 470,000 hectares to foreign companies from Libya, China, the UK, Saudi Arabia and other countries in recent years, virtually all of it in the Niger basin.

Grain said the secrecy around land deals makes it hard to know exactly what is being handed over to foreign companies, but from those contracts leaked or made public, it is clear they tend not to contain any specific mention of water rights, leaving the companies free to build dams and irrigation canals at their discretion…Read more.

South Africa: Police chief Bheki Cele fired by President Jacob Zuma


Global Post

By Eric Conway-Smith

June 12, 2012

Bheki Cele, suspended over allegations of dodgy property deals, has been replaced by Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega, South Africa’s first female police commissioner.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Bheki Cele has been fired as top police chief, South African President Jacob Zuma announced today.

Cele, suspended last year after allegations of unlawful property deals, has been replaced by Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega. She is South Africa’s first female national police commissioner.

Cele’s dismissal comes amid growing frustration in South Africa over corrupt and incompetent police, from traffic cops soliciting a bribe to the controversial appointments of some of the country’s highest-ranking police officials.

A board of inquiry last month found that Cele was not fit to hold office, and recommended he be dismissed.

“I have decided to release General Cele from his duties,” Zuma told reporters in Pretoria.

Allegations about Cele’s property deals were first reported in South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper, on August 1, 2010.

A corruption investigator ruled last year that Cele and a government minister were involved in property deals that were “improper, unlawful, and amounted to maladministration.”

Public protector Thuli Madonsela investigated leases for buildings that were to have served as police headquarters in Pretoria and Durban, and found that the buildings were leased from a well-connected company at inflated prices.

She slammed Cele for his involvement in the deals, and called for disciplinary action against him by President Zuma.

In the Durban deal, police had offered $169 million to a politically connected property tycoon for a 10-year lease that was worth less than one third of that amount.

Cele’s predecessor, Jackie Selebi, is serving a 15-year jail sentence for corruption after being convicted of taking $156,000 in bribes from drug dealer Glenn Agliotti.

Mali opposition party demands land lease details


Old bridge in Bamako, Mali
Image via Wikipedia

The Associated Press February 10, 2011 by Martin Vogl

Bamako, Mali

An opposition party in Mali wrote to the country’s president demanding that details of contracts leasing out massive areas of agricultural land be made public. In the letter shared with The Associated Press Wednesday, the Party for  National Renaissance said since 2003 almost 2 million acres of farm land have been leased out in secret contracts to Chines, Libyan and South African firms…Bakary Kante, an adviser to the Malian prime minister on agricultural issues, said the government has been promoting private investment because multinationals can afford to finance-much-needed infrastructure for the country. Read more

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