By Maureen Agaba
The UN International anti-corruption day celebrated every 9th of December is a time for nations globally to pause, undertake a self reflection on the impact of anti-corruption initiatives and assess whether the war against corruption is indeed yielding tangible fruit.
In Uganda, it is equally imperative to take stock of whether the fight against corruption is being won and what still remains to be done.
Uganda’s elaborate institutional, legal and policy framework to fight corruption has been much lauded to the extent of Uganda being a model case study for other countries seeking to learn from and emulate similar frameworks. On the other hand, issues of limited and selectivity in enforcement of the laws continue to water down any concrete achievements in the graft fight.
The social contract between the state and the people in any democratic country dictates that those in power are accountable to those who put them into power. In Uganda’s case the reverse appears to hold. Leaders once elected into positions of power forget their duty and embark on the quest of individual satisfaction only to return to the electorate when elections come closer.
In 2002 the Constitutional Court ruled that the Leadership Code Act does not apply to presidential appointees, rendering the Act irrelevant for a large number of the highest-ranking officials, including shielding ministers and other presidential appointees from asset declaration.
In that case, the Inspector General of Government had recommended dismissal of Presidential Adviser Major Roland Kakooza Mutale for failure to make his financial declaration, which the President had then effected. Major Mutale subsequently challenged his dismissal before the Constitutional Court, which ruled that the Leadership Code Act is void with respect to Presidential appointees. Ultimately this means that the IGG no longer has power to terminate or even recommend the termination of presidential appointees and the president himself is not obligated to fire people who fail to report their assets.
The continued absence of a Leadership code tribunal to adjudicate over cases of leaders’ non-compliance with the Leadership Code Act, such as acquisition of illicit gain through excess or under declared property further speaks volumes of Government’s will to fight graft. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the Government walks the talk of fighting corruption by translating its zero tolerance to corruption promise to action; only then will posterity judge the government to have demonstrated real commitment in the war on graft.
The writer works with Uganda Debt Network