Friday January 10 2014

Govt has registered victory in fighting corruption

By Rose Namayanja Nsereko

The government of Uganda has been lauded in the East African region for leading the fight against corruption. This is because of the different anti-corruption laws so far enacted to make it difficult for public office holders to walk scot-free whenever they engage in corruption.

Such laws that have been enacted include; Inspectorate of Government Act 2002; the Leadership Code Act 2002; the Anti-Corruption Act 2009; the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2010; the Access to Information Act 2005; the PPDA Act 2003 and Regulations; the National Audit Act 2008; Anti-Money Laundering Bill; Qui Tam Bill and Proceeds of Crime Bill.
All the above, coupled with the different anti-corruption institutions and policies, have enabled the government to boast of positive steps in the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy towards graft. The President has thrown his full weight behind anti-corruption institutions; that is why they have been able to achieve the following successes.

The government has been able to develop and implement the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2009-2013. This is a framework designed to implement zero-tolerance to corruption. Its implementation is coordinated by the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity. Under this programme, anti-corruption institutions have been able to jointly monitor government programmes and service delivery. District Integrity forums have so far been established in 55 districts and through the same strategy, ethical values have been introduced into school curricula. This is a big achievement in as far as weeding out corruption at district level and preparing a corruption-free future generation are concerned.

In the past few years, the Directorate of Public Prosecution and the Inspectorate of Government have registered a higher conviction rate in corruption cases. This is because of effective investigations and prosecutions. For instance, the practice of prosecution-led investigations has so far resulted in 100 per cent conviction rate for the 12 cases so far taken to court arising from the Global Fund, Naads and Chogm. The DPP has maintained a higher average conviction rate of more than 64 per cent at the Anti-Corruption Court compared to other criminal cases.

With these convictions, the government has been able to recover billions of shillings in misappropriated public funds by way of refunds, settlements, compensation orders and fines. For instance, more than Shs4.3 billion was recovered after investigations in Global Fund, Chogm and Naads. The Anti-Corruption Court has issued compensation orders worth more than Shs32 billion against convicts. Of this money, Shs22 billion has already been realised from 41 cases that had monetary value. With such achievements, we cannot say the government is doing nothing to curb corruption. Also between 2010 and 2012, Shs16 billion was saved by the different anti-corruption departments.

Moreover, further investigations are currently being conducted in several ministries and departments like Public Service, Local Government, Health, Education, Finance/Micro-Finance Support Centre, National Planning Authority, Immigration, OPM and many more. Soon the results will be made public.

The government has also increased audits and widened the areas of coverage. In the same way, there is an improvement in tax revenue collection where we have been able to raise funds to foot the National Budget by more than 70 per cent. All this is because of effective enforcement of disciplinary measures for staff, which has led to a decline in corruption levels.

With the government empowering anti-corruption staff with specialised skills in areas of investigation, property rights, digital investigations, cyber-crime, tracing and asset recovery, governance monitoring statistics, saving and investments in capital markets, and many others, it will be difficult for individuals to get away with corruption. This has been further reinforced with the creation of professional standards units.

To avoid backlog of corruption-related cases, the DPP, IGG and the Anti-Corruption Court ensure that cases are disposed of within four months after institution by prosecutors. The court’s jurisdiction has also been enhanced to include financial crimes. Meanwhile, the IGG has developed a data tracking mechanism to help detect the trends in corruption.

Many other initiatives like integrity clubs in schools are being spread across the country and with the population willing to surrender more information on corruption, the vice could soon be history. This will also be possible as the government squeezes other departments to get logistical support for specialised anti-corruption officials, put in place a leadership code tribunal, hire more staff, avail more money for investigations and further decentralise the PPDA.

Once again, let us show a spirit of patriotism, volunteer useful information to the CIID, IGG and DPP to ensure that we do not backtrack in the fight against corruption because it greatly affects service delivery and yet we are the ones who directly benefit from these services. 2014 should be the year for us to break the spine of the corruption monster.
Ms Namayanja is the Minister of Information and National Guidance