In Uganda, impunity in public office rising

Saturday August 18 2018

President Yoweri Museveni

The corruption and abuse of public office in Uganda has become so rampant that President Yoweri Museveni last June announced the appointment of a parallel unit in his office, saying the Inspectorate of Government could not be trusted. PHOTO | AFP 

By DICTA ASIIMWE
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Corruption in public office in Uganda has worsened over the years, despite the presence of the Inspectorate of Government — an independent institution formed after the passing of the relevant laws 30 years ago — which was supposed to have eliminated the vice.

The corruption and abuse of public office in Uganda has become so rampant that President Yoweri Museveni last June announced the appointment of a parallel unit in his office, saying the Inspectorate of Government could not be trusted.

President Museveni said the parallel anti-corruption unit, which is to be headquartered in State House, will have credibility, thus allowing members of the public and investors to report government officials suspected of graft.

But critics, including the Inspector-General of Government Irene Mulyagonja, say corruption in Uganda is fuelled by people close to the president and not a lack of relevant laws.

According to Ms Mulyagonja, those who abuse their offices often hide behind the president. The corrupt, she says, are so powerful that whenever she tries to pursue them, they fight back and often win.

Leadership code

Although anti-corruption activists agree with this assessment, the IGG’s office is also accused of politicking to favour the ruling government instead of doing its work. They say that the IGG has failed to grant the public access to information, citing the leadership code.

The leadership code requires public officials to publish their incomes, assets and liabilities, so that anything acquired illegally through the fraudulent use of a government office is easily identified.

But the IGG’s office has failed to use this information to catch people who abuse their offices.

Officials at Transparency International Uganda say that if the IGG’s office were to publish the properties and assets of government officials and political leaders, members of the public would be able to scrutinise the information and pick out those who lie.

With an impotent IGG’s office, Uganda is now routinely ranked by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

In its 2017 index, the country was ranked 151st, slightly ahead of collapsed states and devastated economies like Burundi and South Sudan. Among the most corrupt offices that Ugandans have highlighted are the police and courts of law.