Law amendment seeks to have leaders declare all gifts to IGG

By Moses Walubiri

The Leadership Code Act provides for minimum standard of behaviour and conduct for leaders

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All leaders subject to the Leadership Code Act will soon be expected to declare all donations and gifts of whatever value and nature if Parliament passes the Leadership Code (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

Under the principal Act, a leader can receive a gift and not declare it to the inspectorate of government if it's below five currency points in value and it's in form of a souvenir.

In jurisdictions like the US where leaders surrender gifts got while on official duties, the rationale is to prevent office bearers from unfairly turning them into cash-cows.

The provision is part of the Bill to amend the Leadership Code Act, 2002 as government finally accedes to demands by the inspectorate of government to amend the principal act in order to explicitly provide for a Leadership Code Tribunal.

The Bill is being pushed by minister of ethics Simon Lokodo who yesterday interfaced with lawmakers on the committee of legal and parliamentary affairs committee to justify its introduction.

"This Bill has been on the shelf for 12 years. Once passed, it will plug a number of loopholes in the principal Act as has been ably highlighted by courts over the years," Lokodo, with a number of technocrats from the directorate of ethics  in tow said.

The Leadership Code Act provides for minimum standard of behaviour and conduct for leaders and requires leaders to routinely declare their income, assets and liabilities as one of the ways to prevent those with access to the public purse from fraudulently enriching themselves.

However, in enforcement of the Leadership Code Act, courts of law have faulted the Inspector General of Government (IGG) for flouting a number of constitutional provisions over absence of a Leadership Code Tribunal.

The first judgment to punch holes in this regard was one filed by former Rubaga North MP, Ken Lukyamuzi over the then IGG Faith Mwondha's decision to terminate his tenure in the seventh parliament by seven months for failure to declare his assets and liabilities.

The Supreme Court faulted Mwondha's decision, saying the IGG was not an appropriate tribunal as envisaged by Article 83(1)(e)of the constitution.

The court also noted that absence of a Leadership Code Tribunal turns the IGG into an investigator, prosecutor and judge rolled into one which offends all known tenets of justice.

Another case by erstwhile Budama West MP, Fox Odoi also successfully challenged the IGG's power to cause dismissal of a public servant with court concurring  with the petitioner that it would fetter the president's constitutional discretionary power to exercise disciplinary control over a category of civil servants. 

To address the issues raised by the Supreme Court in the Lukyamuzi case, the Bill has a provision where the IGG carries out investigation of alleged corruption or abuse of office and hands a report to a tribunal for final sanction.

The Bill also gives the IGG discretionary powers not to release information of assets and liabilities of an individual if such release would breach national security or grossly offend the right to privacy.

The Bill seeks to amend 31 out of the 41 sections of the principal Act in what committee chairperson, Jacob Oboth-Oboth has described as "a complete overhaul."