By John Odyek
CIVIL society organisations have commended the judiciary in the fight againt corruption.
Top leaders from Transparency International, Uganda Debt Network and the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda praised the recent conviction by Anti-Corruption Court of the former permanent secretary ministry of local government Muwanguzi Kashaka for his involvement in the Local Council bicycle scandal.
This was at a press conference held at Transparency International head offices at Ntinda. The Anti-corruption Court mid this month convicted Kashaka to 10 years and 10 days in imprisonment for causing a sh4b financial loss to government. The funds were meant to buy over 70,000 bicycles for Local Council chairpersons.
Court also found out that the Amman Industrial Tool and Equipment (AITEL) Company which was awarded the contract to supply the bicycles was non-existent and their directors were conmen. The Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority has also suspended the company indefinitely from public procurement in Uganda.
Kashaka was sentenced with five others; Henry Bamutura, Robert Mwebaze, Sam Emorut, Timothy Musherure and Adam Aluma who were all officials in the ministry.
“We have been concerned that the incidences of corruption in Uganda have continued to escalate despite the existence of institutions, policies and laws meant to fight corruption,” Julius Kapwepwe, director of programmes, Uganda Debt Network said.
“We are happy with the ruling of the Anti-Corruption Court that convicted Kashaka. This kind of punishment sends a clear message to would be offenders and deters them from being corrupt. We appreciate the political will exhibited and hope in the future such officers are punished,” Kapwewe added.
Peter Wandera, executive director Transparency International said the civil society has made several recommendations to government to step up the fight against corruption and save loss of public resources.
“Parliament should expedite the process of passing the Anti-Corruption Amendment Bill 2013. The Bill will provide the judiciary with powers to investigate and confiscate the proceeds gained from corruption,” Wandera said.
He asked that the Leadership Code Act should be amended to make public the details of the declaration of wealth of public officials to prove their truthfulness. He said government should continue to demonstrate political will to fight corruption by adequately funding anti-graft institutions like IGG, CIID, Auditor General and the judiciary.
According to the World Bank Uganda loses about $300m (sh510b) per year through corruption and procurement malpractices. Public procurement in Uganda accounts for over 70% of government’s budget for goods and services. Government is the biggest employer to the private sector in terms of offering lucrative business opportunities in terms of tenders and contracts.
“Because of this huge importance to the business sector, a number of business firms are using both ethical and unethical methods to gain a share of this business opportunity,” IGG Justice Irene Mulyagonja states in a report entitled ‘Combating corruption in public procurement’.