Human Rights Watch report on graft a sham
Posted Tuesday, October 29 2013 at 08:39
On October 21, the Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Letting the Big Fish Swim”, which documents, according to them, the government’s failure to prosecute high-level corruption in Uganda. We appreciate their efforts, because we learn a lot from such efforts. This report accuses the government of failing to prosecute high-level corruption in Uganda, specifically referring to ministers. It also points out lack of political will to fight corruption; an accusation we greatly disagree with.
The Government of Uganda is committed to fighting corruption, and will not retract from its principle of having zero tolerance for graft. Government’s political will to fight corruption is demonstrated by its establishment of several institutions to fight the vice.
Such institutions include; the Inspectorate of Government, the Anti-Corruption Court of the Judiciary, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, and the office of the Auditor General. Each of these institutions operate independently, without any political interference or coercion whatsoever, as claimed by the Human Rights Watch report. These institutions are also adequately funded by the government to enable them function optimally.
The Judiciary has duly performed its functions without government interference.
Failure to prosecute the so-called ‘Big Fish’ alluded to in the report is completely false and unfounded. Government has initiated prosecution of its ministers and technical officers accused in corruption scandals under the existing laws. Take the case of former Health ministers Jim Muhwezi, Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha who were tried in the Anti-Corruption Court, which court acquitted them of all charges of mismanaging Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation funds.
Prior to their prosecution, the government set up a commission of inquiry headed by Justice James Ogoola to look into the alleged theft of GAVI funds.
In the same vein, two other former ministers; Syda Bbumba and Khiddu Makubuya of Finance and Attorney General respectively took political responsibility and resigned their positions following intense pressure for wrongly approving compensation for city businessman Hassan Basajjabalaba.
For anybody to say there is no political support to fight corruption is rather myopic. Take another example of the corruption unearthed in the Office of the Prime Minister. Even when the Auditor General in his routine annual audit report had given the OPM a clean sheet, it was the President who after being tipped by a whistleblower, requested for a special audit, knowing well that the same audit report would be forwarded to the opposition-led Public Accounts Committee of Parliament. That has been NRM’s tested method of work to handle any vice in an open manner.
The other case that you can allude to which signifies government’s political will, is the corruption in the health sector which was again detected by the President. He then set up a Presidential Health Monitoring Unit which, among other things, unveiled theft of government drugs which has since been halted and thus increased availability of drugs in government health facilities.
In a recent joint press statement released by the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, the Danish Ambassador to Uganda, Dan E. Frederikson, and the World Bank country manager Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye (both co-chairs of the Joint Budget Support Group which brings together 10 development partners), the Uganda government was lauded for its commitment to fighting corruption through the strengthening of its financial management systems and institutions. This statement was issued after a joint review of the policy committee and the Development Partners’ Policy Committee where the Government of Uganda’s performance for FY 2011/2012 was assessed as satisfactory.
The Danish Ambassador particularly noted that: “We appreciate the Government of Uganda’s efforts since November 2012 to re-establish confidence in government systems by addressing public finance management weaknesses. In this regard, development partners would like to re-affirm our commitment to supporting reform efforts of the Government of Uganda; reforms that strive to strengthen systems and institutions for a better way of life for the people of Uganda”.
So the Human Rights Watch’s allegation that the government of Uganda has no political will to prosecute high-level corruption doesn’t hold water. It is intended to undermine the confidence Ugandans and development partners have in government’s fight against graft.
The government strongly refutes these allegations and affirms its commitment to deal with corruption in all public institutions through the bodies put in place to handle such cases. The fight against corruption remains top on the agenda of the NRM government and such unwarranted accusations by some sections of society will not deter this commitment.
Ms Namayanja is the Minister of Information