The Anti-Corruption Law Ugandans Have Been Waiting For

By Josepha Jabo

Ugandans have heard countless stories of corrupt officials stashing stolen funds in off-shore bank accounts, or in secret safes within the vicinity of their properties or registering their properties in the names of family members to deflect suspicion of theft during police investigations or investing in foreign real estate. Of course, corruption scandals will always make news for they provoke public outrage, due to wastage of tax-payers money, compared to the corruption that takes place in the private sector. The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) saga was the biggest scandal to rock 2012/2013—but at least it was exposed. Even so, Ugandans were shocked at scandal-ridden OPM’s former principal accountant; Geoffrey Kazinda’s palatial residence in Bukoto with a garage full of expensive cars. Kazinda’s house, with its multiple rooms, is so large that it resembles a hotel; which if seized and sold off the proceeds could have been used to recover some of the stolen billions. The rationale behind this is Kazinda used part of the loot to build this mansion therefore, the house is not rightfully his. In addition, it was alleged by Kazinda’s former employee that he had a ‘hidden safe’ dug somewhere in his garden. Ugandans have also been angered by the fact that after their stints in prison, these thieves are released only to enjoy the money they have ‘eaten.’
There was a Media Breakfast held on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at Serena Conference Centre, that was held to launch the international Anti-Corruption Week 2014, 2nd-9th December 2014, under the theme, ‘Accelerating the Fight Against Corruption; A Collective Responsibility.’ In his introductory remarks, the Deputy Inspector General of Government, George Bamugemereire, noted, ‘The Inspectorate of Government achieved the following, in key results during the Financial Year 2013-2014.  Arising from investigations, UGX 603,449,705/= was recovered and 52 arrests were made.  Concluded prosecution of 26 corruption cases out of the planned 50; the prosecutions resulted into 14 convictions, 4 acquittals, 1 case abated and 7 cases were withdrawn. Under civil litigation, concluded 70% of the planned cases (concluded 14 out of the planned 20).’ He later added the UGX 603,449,705 million was a cash recovery and that the Inspectorate had prevented government losses of UGX 24 billion.
The Inspector General of Government (IGG) Irene Mulyagonja said the Inspectorate prosecutes, “As high as it can.” She also said people rarely testify against someone who is still holding a political office. There was a complaint, from one of the audience members, that the recovery of UGX 603,449,705 million was ‘little money’ but the IGG explained that, “There are limitations to recovery of assets,” adding the legal process which necessitates going through the courts of law before recovery takes place. For further clarification, the IGG, explained to me afterwards that there are two types of recovery of stolen funds: ‘prosecution-based asset recovery’ and ‘non-prosecution-based asset recovery.’ She told me that in Uganda legally we have ‘prosecution-based asset recovery’; therefore, we cannot confiscate someone’s asset before they are taken to court.
However, the day before the announcement of Uganda’s drop from 140th to the 142th position out of 175 countries surveyed in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2014, by Transparency International, State Minister for Ethics & Integrity, Father Simon Lokodo, speaking at the same Serena event, spoke of Cabinet’s approval of the, ‘Non-Conviction Assets Recovery Bill’ which means Uganda will adopt ‘non-prosecution-based asset recovery.’
His announcement was a timely because the new law will strike fear in the hearts of the corrupt. It will help break up the money-stealing rackets, which retain solidarity through their sworn code of silence, because it will hurt these criminals when the government rightfully taking back the ill-gotten gain they are fond of flaunting. It will help end the culture of abnormal wealth accumulation. This is the legislation that Ugandans have been waiting for. So, let’s give this bill our full support by reporting cases of corruption.
The Writer works for Uganda Media Centre