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I alone cannot fight corruption â€" IGG

By Vision Reporter

Added 2nd December 2003 03:00 AM

Recently, Jotham Tumwesigye, the Inspector General of Government, met with writer Aretha Frison and shared with her his views on how best corruption can be ended.

Recently, Jotham Tumwesigye, the Inspector General of Government, met with writer Aretha Frison and shared with her his views on how best corruption can be ended.

INTIMATE PORTRAIT

Recently, Jotham Tumwesigye, the Inspector General of Government, met with writer Aretha Frison and shared with her his views on how best corruption can be ended.

QUESTION: Were you involved in politics when you were young?
Answer:
As a young person, I was always an activist at school. At Makerere University, I was vice-president of the student’s guild.

But then, Idi Amin abolished it because he saw it as a thorn in his side in 1973. We were protesting violations against our student rights. We did not demonstrate — we talked out our rights. Then, Amin said any student getting involved in politics would be killed, and that frightened us.

Since you were involved in student demonstrations, if you were a young person now, would you have behaved the same way as the Makerere University students protesting for their allowances or differently?
A:
But, the students did not know they were getting paid. The university’s administration must share the blame. When you are a young person, you are energetic and militant. I wouldn’t have sat back and talked either. I would have been an effective representative, so I do not blame them.

Speaking of politics, why didn’t you declare your wealth first and lead your colleagues to declare theirs?
Well, there is a misunderstanding that I decide who makes their declarations of wealth. The law says that the wealth is accessible to the public. And, if the public applies for the declaration here at my office, they will be able to receive that declaration.

The law that allows this as public information has caught those in government by surprise. If this should be kept or changed, it is something that Parliament should do. The public would go to Parliament and not the IGG, to change it.

What do you think about the media having access to declarations of wealth and other information about public officials?
Some people think the public should have access and not the media. My view is, in order to promote transparency and in order to stop people from using public office to amass wealth, it is in the interest of the public to have declarations to be made publicly. My public view does not count, but what the law provides.

Some people I have spoken to believe that the members of Parliament lied about their declarations, and even kept secret foreign bank accounts and other assets. How would you respond to that?
It shows that the public does not have trust in what their leaders are saying. We need to create confidence. I can’t say that I believe or do not believe. My job is to clarify if it is true. I expect the members to declare their wealth. I hope that the public push leaders who have not declared, to do so.

How many cases do you investigate for corruption a year?
We investigate so many cases. We investigate thousands of cases a year on headteachers, accountants, mid-level executives, directors, heads of departments, ministers and members of Parliament.

Do you think corruption will ever be defeated in Uganda?
Yes. I think the public needs to be convinced that the government is making some serious efforts to deal with corruption. Once that is done, they won’t be suspicious about foreign bank accounts and what they haven’t declared.

What can the government do to achieve this?
I think the leaders should not give indications that they are hiding something. They should take the initiative to convince the public that what they have declared is all they have. It should not appear like the public is forcing them to declare. They should lead the way to promote transparency and accountability.

People seem to admire you for coming out without hesitation to declare, and standing up to fight corruption by obeying the law. How do you feel about that?
Should I be the only one? I expect all leaders to fight for transparency and accountability. Even if the law was not in place, they should show that they are not using their offices as a means of amassing wealth.

So, if the public knows that you came to this office with one small house, a small farm, and after two years, you have three houses and two farms, then the public is entitled to know where you acquired all this property from. And, the public can best know this when the declarations are made public.

But most people think that it is your job to find out where a leader could have got all his wealth from.
But to expect my office to know what a leader has using the limited resources in my office is impossible. The declarations of assets the members could have are probably scattered. Some may have assets in the countryside, while others in the city. How can the IGG know unless the public is involved to let him know?

Do you think it would be a good idea to have a law to have all public officials’ assets accessible to the public?
I don’t think just for the government, but make all leaders in all places of work. Declarations are good. Employees could declare to employers, and then employers to the IGG.

How does your family feel about what you are doing to fight corruption?
My family supports me. I think it is good to take a strong position for what is right. It defines you, and it also makes people who think like you to identify with you. You become a good role model for your children and other young people.

Is your fight to stop corruption just for Uganda, or does it also determine what you are as a father?
My children are not materialistic, so in that aspect, they are just like me. They are modest. They don’t demand for big things. If they ask me for money, and I can’t give it to them, they understand. So, they are the type of people that will live with integrity. They have values that are of more important to them than wealth.

So, you’re children haven’t been affected by the publicity involving this issue of declaration of wealth?
They know what is happening. I have four children.

Two have finished university, one is still at university, and the youngest is in Senior five. When declaring my wealth, the law requires we declare children under the age of 18, and what they may have as property.

So, my children said, “Daddy, have you disowned us,” (laughing.) But, I didn’t, I was just doing what the law says... Of course, the pressure I feel, they feel it because people talk about it.

rereb@hotmail.com

I alone cannot fight corruption – IGG

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