Opinion
Why the storm at the ministry of Internal Affairs?
Publish Date: Mar 31, 2014
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By Rene M Ndyomugyenyi

For the last couple of months, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has attracted public and media attention more than ever before. I am not sure whether it is a good thing or a bad one.

However, whatever it is, is it a coincidence that this entire storm started rising under the stewardship of General Aronda Nyakairima? The answer is No.

He then must be doing something right or wrong in order to attract so much attention in such a short time, probably more attention than did all his predecessors put together. Right or wrong, the cause of this attention seems to be the side effects of the cleanup process, putting the 'house in order'. So why was the house in a mess?

The answer that springs to my mind is corruption. So inevitably the answer to what he is doing right or what he is doing wrong is that he is either going about fighting corruption the right way or the wrong way. This is the aspect I would wish to discuss.

It is a noble thing to fight corruption, especially in Uganda where one struggles to find a public department that is corruption free.

However, how one goes about the fight is crucial, balances must be struck between the resources available and the deterrent outcome desired. Corruption can be fought by either being reactive, meaning you come in heavy, investigate, get evidence, prosecute and create a deterrent effect of fear, or you come in heavy, you investigate, you close the loopholes and construct firewalls.

It seems Gen Aronda has come in heavy and reactive, he wants to annihilate the corrupt in his ministry, for both past and present offences. His unprecedented ambition is clear, and this has caused panic, fear of prosecution, people are looking at his manoeuvers from a prison cell point of view, they will fight, they will sabotage investigations, and they will make it look like a witch-hunt, they will stretch resources, money will start changing hands within the justice due processes.

The past and present benefactors of the vice (some very powerful) will start making noise, they don't want to end up in the dock. From a professional point of view, I think the reactive approach will only continue to bloat the pile backlogs at CIID, judiciary and congest prisons with no certainty of conviction or deterrence.

I am not even sure whether it won't result into the perpetrators just laying low or just being careful not to be caught and instead increasing the bribe price since the risks are higher.

In the circumstances, probably it is better to use the blend of reactive and proactive measures, prosecution for clear cut cases and proactive means to disrupt sophisticated networks. Engagement of civil measures like summary dismissals based on the balance of probabilities can be engaged for quicker resource friendly measures in exchange for confessions or intelligence.

Like I said, what is important is permanently shutting down all the opportunities for corruption, by doing that the perpetrators leave a trail of evidence when they try to circumvent the firewalls, at that point prosecution can be engaged.

A proactive approach for now will enable Aronda to scramble the disparate investigative resources on ensuring that the ID project is not abused. This requires thinking of all the possible ways corruption could occur, how to prevent it, how to manage the effects, and effective legal redresses.

Just to understand the gist of the challenges in this project, let me paint a small picture, 'I am a Sudanese national, I have lived in Kampala for five years and have good grasp of Luganda, I go to Arua Private Hospital, I bribe and obtain the death certificate of a man who died yesterday, I get his name, next of kin, village etc.

I come back to Kampala and register for a national ID', what legislative deterrents and or proactive counter measures are currently in place for such a scenario? This is one of the so many ways an ID can be obtained with little or no chances of detection.

Designing corruption preventive measures requires a meticulous planning process and committed expertise and I trust Gen. Aronda is aware. If need be, I rather he postpones the launch until the process is all water tight from abuse.

In any event there is no doubt he has the will to fight corruption and indeed heads will continue to roll.

The writer is the executive director of the Corruption and Risk Advisory Bureau, Kampala

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