By Moses Okoed
THE leadership code is the equivalent of a code of ethics in other jurisdictions which was put in place to strengthen the mechanisms of accountability and fighting corruption.
If corruption has to be fought effectively, it is desirable that the fight starts from the top leadership ranks who are in charge of the management of affairs of the state and they (the top leaders) should demonstrate good leadership and accountability so that the people they lead can emulate them.
When the Inspectorate of Government fronts the declaration of wealth and assets by the public officers, the intention is not to control or discourage people from acquiring property which will lead to economic development and prosperity in the country.
The intention is that wealth should not be corruptly or unethically obtained and where there is anything questionable about acquisition of certain property by an individual, a satisfactory explanation should be given on how the wealth was obtained. Leaders, who follow a code of ethics, inspire public confidence and trust in the public service.
The majority of the leaders are not leading by example where many of them stubbornly refuse to declare their assets while others under-declare. I am convinced such leaders cannot uphold principles of good leadership, transparency and accountability.
Political interference in the discharge of legal mandates by public leaders. Instances of state protection to public officials in default have been soaring. Such actions frustrate the efforts of the few public leaders that are accountable and transparent.
So, the move requiring leaders to submit to the Inspectorate of Government a statement of income, assets and liabilities of a leader, the code in part (iv) prohibits certain forms of conduct by a leader like soliciting or accepting gifts or any benefits in kind for anything done in the discharge of his/her duties or by virtue of his/her official position and further prohibits conflict of interest where a leader puts himself /herself in a position which conflicts with his/her duties and responsibilities (S. 10) .
Other prohibitions by- the Code include abuse of public property (S.12), misuse of official information (S.13) and forms of personal conduct that are outrageous or disgraceful or prejudicial to a leader's status in government and conduct generally prejudicial to the interests of the state (S.14).
If an inquiry is held and a leader is found to have breached the Code, action can be taken against him/her. The action taken may range from demotion, dismissal or advising the leader to resign from public office among other actions that can be taken (S.21).
I want to appreciate the government efforts to increase citizens’ participation in their governance especially through the decentralisation process but this is still lacking. The Government should emphasise on the rights-based approaches towards ensuring that the public officers, act responsibility through Government institutions borrowing from the community-based monitoring and evaluation system, a tool used to empower the citizens in understanding their rights and take key role in participating in all development initiatives of government.
And as a result, this has enabled to create mutual understanding between the local leaders and their right holders and share all kind of information through community dialogue meetings where all leaders sit to explain their actions.
I also want to appreciate the role played by PAC in the promotion of transparency and accountability in public finance management. However, the constraints PAC and other committees encounter, such as inadequate capacity in terms of personnel and other resources; absence of a culture of accountability; access to classified expenditure; inability to enforce compliance with recommendations of various institutions like PAC and IGG.
Declaration of wealth and financial disclosure is now an internationally accepted measure to combat corruption and promote transparency. Requiring routine financial disclosures from all public officials, is a powerful tool in fighting corruption by aiding the discovery and prosecution of corrupt activity and increasing transparency by illuminating potential conflicts of interest.
Thus it is important that full disclosures of wealth be enforced. Full disclosure of one’s material status in asset declaration will fulfil the Constitutional values.
Also by leaders publicly declaring their wealth, it will subject them to public scrutiny in the way they handle official matters and will be required to account for their wealth.
Once leaders know that their activities are under public scrutiny, they are expected to be honest in the performance of their official duties lest they become a subject of investigation, which may cause embracement to the individuals and their families. In relation to these arguments, there is need for the Government to support the Inspectorate of Government to enforce this process of declaration of wealth to restore sanity among public servants.
Political leaders and state machinery should not use their position to protect public officers who are not accountable to the citizens and let the Inspectorate of Government and Parliament use its prerogative in Article 107, of the 1995 Constitution to take appropriate action.
Writer works with Uganda Debt Network