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MPs Oppose Law Against Corruption

By Vision Reporter

Added 27th February 2002 03:00 AM

MEMBERS of Parliament yesterday came out strongly against the Government’s proposed law on corrupt leaders.

MEMBERS of Parliament yesterday came out strongly against the Government’s proposed law on corrupt leaders.

By Felix Osike MEMBERS of Parliament yesterday came out strongly against the Government’s proposed law on corrupt leaders. They argued that some of the provisions infringe on the right to privacy enshrined in the 1995 Constitution. The Leadership Code Bill being re-introduced to Parliament for the third time, suffered a major setback when MPs rejected the proposed sanctions on corrupt leaders including access to their bank accounts and forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth. The MPs on the legal and parliamentary affairs committee chaired by Adolf Mwesige were meeting ethics and integrity minister Miria Matembe and the Inspector General of Government, Jotham Tumwesigye, to consider the Bill. Matembe appealed to the MPs to support the law, saying it would ensure there is accountability, transparency and good governance. She said the 1992 Leadership Code was “inadequate and completely useless,” because it could not be enforced. The Bill provides for a minimum standard of behaviour and conduct for leaders and calls for full disclosure of incomes, assets and liabilities of leaders, their agents, spouses and children and dependants under 18 years of age. Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri), Dora Byamukama (Mwenge South), Jacob Oulanyah (Omoro), Omara Atubo (Otuke), Adolf Mwesige ( Bunyangabu) objected to some of the clauses in the Bill. Katuntu said the provision which requires spouses to declare their assets was in conflict with Article 26(2) and 27 of the Constitution. Article 26(1) guarantees the right to own property either individually or in association with others while Article 26(2) stipulates that no person shall be compulsorily deprived of such property. “Spouses have a right to their property. There is no law which compels a spouse to declare her wealth. He also said it was wrong to criminalise offences in the Leadership Code of Conduct. Byamukama said under criminal law, spouses are not compelled to give evidence against their husbands. The IGG said it had been proven that some corrupt leaders hide their wealth in the names of spouses and children. He said companies under investigation abroad were paying for some of the leaders’ spouses’ trips. The MPs asked Matembe and Tumwesigye to justify the need for a new law when anti-corruption laws exist. Oulanyah advised that the IGG tables amendments to the 1992 Leadership Code. Most MPs have not declared their wealth since the law came into force in 1997. Atubo accused the Executive of “hijacking,” the IGG’s role by creating the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. But Matembe reacted angrily to the statement, saying the Inspectorate of Government was an independent body. The MPs contested clauses on how to deal with officials who are caught in the web of conflict of interest, seizure of assets, surrender of gifts received in the course of one’s duty and punishments to be meted out by the IGG. The IGG said the 1992 law had been overtaken by events such as the coming into force of the 1995 Constitution and the Local Government Act. He also said the 1992 law had several loopholes which made enforcement difficult. The Bill requires leaders to declare their wealth biennially. The declaration is to be accessible to the public on application to the IGG. It is also proposed in the new Bill that a leader shall not place himself in a position which may compromise the proper exercise of his or her public or official duties. The new code also proposes that commissions, donations and other gifts worth sh100,000 or more to leaders at any public or ceremonial transaction shall be forfeited to the State. In a related incident, Matembe yesterday said it was difficult to enforce the 1992 Leadership Code due to inadequacy, writes Milton Olupot. Addressing a press conference after presenting the Bill to the MPs, Matembe said the 1992 code did not provide strong mechanisms for its enforcement and therefore failed to bind the leaders. The amended Bill prohibits leaders from holding any shares or any other proprietary interest in any business or organisation and provides adequate sanctions to deter any possible breach. “Offences and sanctions have been proposed for non-compliance with the code. These range from dismissal, vacation of office, fines and imprisonment to ensure compliance with the code,” Matembe said. “Such breaches include failure to declare assets, failure to declare on time, false declaration and misuse of public property,” she added. She said the new Bill “brings the code into conformity with chapter 14 of the Constitution, the Local Government Act and other related laws. “It requires public leaders to act with honesty and integrity and uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct so as to revive confidence and trust in governance.” Ends

MPs Oppose Law Against Corruption

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