LAST weekend saw the unprecedented publication of the Presidentâ€™s, First Ladyâ€™s and Cabinet ministersâ€™ wealth, declared to the Inspectorate of Government.
It is the first time the public has been shown what their leaders have declared. Section 7 of the Leadership Code Act allows for declaration of wealth to be treated as public information.
Much earlier, during the UMA Trade Show, Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi had turned down gifts, including a floor rug from some exhibitors. His argument was that as a leader he was not allowed to accept any gift valued at more than sh100,000.
Indeed, the Leadership Code Act provides in section 10 that a gift or donation to a leader on any public occasion shall be treated as a gift to the Government. Such a leader is enjoined to declare any such gifts to the Inspector General.
These two incidents, the public display of prominent leadersâ€™ wealth and the turning down of gifts by the Prime Minister seem to dovetail well with the Anti-Corruption Week that has been declared by a coalition of NGOs that have come together to speak out against corruption. Of course, this in itself, does not mean that corruption has been eliminated or that it has been defeated merely by that fact but making a public display of leadersâ€™ wealth and turning down gifts by leaders, in accordance with the law, are positive signs in the fight against corruption. It is a morale booster to those involved in this fight and to a certain extent lends the fight the much-required political will. The most commonly heard comments about the ministersâ€™ wealth declared to the IGG are two: Firstly, that many of the ministers do not seem to have declared everything they own.
The allegation is that they have â€˜hiddenâ€™ some other wealth under different names. The second criticism is that the wealth declared is not commensurate with the amount earned. That the leaders seem to be living beyond their means. If these criticisms, observations and comments are well founded then these should be directed to the right authorities.
It is not enough to allege that a leader has under-declared his or her wealth. There must be evidence to back up such a claim. The one who alleges a fact is the one duty-bound to back it up with evidence. If it is found that a leader has under-declared then the Act provides for appropriate sanctions.
Section 6 provides that a leader who knowingly or recklessly submits a declaration or gives an account of any matter, which is false, misleading or insufficient in any material particular, commits a breach of the Code. The penalties provided for under the Act range from warnings, dismissal, and vacation of office to fines and terms of imprisonment.
What is being done in the fight against corruption is to be greatly commended.
However, it should be remembered that in addition to legal sanctions and political will, there needs to be a change of heart by those in leadership and the public regarding corruption.
Ultimately, the battle against corruption is a battle for peopleâ€™s hearts.
The Declaration Of Wealth Is A Landmark Gesture In Our Law