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ANALYSIS: Corruption’s changing face

Pension scam convicts Christopher Obey, Jimmy Lwamafa and Kiwanuka Kunsa at Anti Corruption court

Top government officials reveal new powerful syndicates

On Dec.09, Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark the International Anti- Corruption day when countries around the world recommit to playing their part in the fight against corruption.

In Uganda, it was a week-long cocktail of activities including outreaches and media debates which were concluded with a public dialogue.

While the release of the report on Uganda’s current performance in curbing corruption which was supposed to take place on the International Anti-Corruption Day was postponed to next year, Deputy Inspector General of Government (IGG) George Bamugemeirere revealed how the vice is changing face.

He said conflict of interest is now the biggest driver of corruption, especially in awarding of contracts. He said people in position to award contracts, for instance district engineers, are forming syndicates.

“We have found that when a district engineer realizes he cannot award himself a contract, he contacts the engineer in the next district and says here is my company; award mine I award yours,” he said, “In law, a company is separate from its individual owners.”

He said, however, if citizens lift this veil and leak the information to the IGG, the institution will not only track and arrest the corrupt but we will also confiscate their property. He encouraged people to become whistleblowers and continue reporting criminals, and added that his office had received about 2500 complaints of corruption and some suspects were already being prosecuted in the courts.

The Attorney General William Byaruhanga also encourages people to report and blames failure to report on general moral decadence whereby the vice has been made to appear a little less shameful.

But anti-corruption crusaders and some members of the judiciary reject the attempt to shift the blame for high levels of corruption to the public. Among this group is Justice Lawrence Gidudu who heads the Anti-Corruption Court and Cissy Kagaba, the Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU).

Gidudu says even when members of the public report cases, “corruption has a way of fighting back and some people are very powerful to touch”.

“If you touch them, they dismantle you,” he says, “you can’t report corruption to corruption. All these reports have showed that all agencies, police and courts are corrupt.”

According to Gidudu and Kagaba the problem is that there is largely no confidence in the institutions that citizens are supposed to report to.

Cissy Kagaba warns that government’s continued lack of commitment to ending corruption will frustrate people into insecurity and praises Rwanda for dropping the rhetoric and instituting a zero-tolerance stance against corruption right from the country’s top leadership. To her, the main driver for the fight against corruption is political will to do it.

The 2015 rankings by a global NGO Transparency International have put Rwanda in the 4th position in Africa and the 1st least corrupt country in East Africa as Uganda ranked 4th in the region only performing better than Burundi and the much younger South Sudan.

Gidudu recommends that the Inspectorate of Government comes up with Anti-corruption Scouts like it’s done in Rwanda. He says these can be sent to every sub-county to demand accountability instead of looking for culprits in towns because they will be missed as corruption continues to take new sophisticated forms.

During the Anti-corruption week, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office revealed that it has started the process to sell off property of the convicted ex- topofficials in the Ministry of Public Service – Jimmy Lwamafa (Permanent Secretary), Christopher Obey (Principal Account Pensions Department) and Kiwanuka Kunsa (Director Research and Development).

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