By Mubatsi Asinja Habati
Former vice president Gilbert Bukenya was sent to Luzira Prison over the Chogm contract he awarded to Motorcare Uganda Limited allegedly disregarding procurement procedures. The Inspectorate of Government took up the matter in the anticorruption court. The Independent’s Mubatsi Asinja Habati spoke to Cissy Kagaba, executive director Anticorruption Coalition Uganda on the government war on graft.
What do you think of jailing of former vice president Gilbert Bukenya?
The fight against corruption in Uganda is more of a gimmick. Much as we appreciate the jailing of Prof. Bukenya because as a public official he had an obligation to handle tax payers’ money diligently. However, this is not the first time that high profile people are arrested, detained and later released on bail. Till now, the GAVI case has never been handled to conclusion. How sure are we, that Bukenya’s case won’t take the same fate?
What do you mean by the fight of corruption in this country being more of “gimmick”?
It’s a gimmick when it comes to high profile cases that involve big shots and big monies. If government was committed to zero tolerance against corruption, the rampant abuse of public funds we are witnessing today would not be happening. For instance, the Basajjabalaba and bicycle saga. In a country where we have numerous laws on corruption and a relatively strong institutional frame work it’s disappointing to see that more funds are stolen.
What is your position on the other officials implicated in the Chogm scandal but have not been brought to court like Bukenya?
Parliament’s CHOGM report implicated a number of government officials, however, the IGG has never fully “investigated” their cases. Much as we appreciate the wide statutory powers of the IGG to prosecute corruption cases, justice must be seen to be done. By leaving out the rest and going for Bukenya one wonders whether what we are seeing is not selective prosecution.
One wonders why Bukenya is taken on, when he is no longer in cabinet. The 8th parliament had exonerated all ministers implicated in the report -this also portrays the nature of our members of parliament, but if they were all exonerated why has the IG only managed to investigate Bukenya? It’s true, an offense was committed and if Prof. Bukenya was implicated, it’s just and fair that the law takes it course. However, the rules of natural of justice must also be considered by bringing to book the rest of the culprits implicated. If this does not happen, then the zero tolerance policy to corruption will always remain a myth in Uganda.
You say the rules of natural of justice must also be considered. Can you explain a little more on this?
Unfortunately at one point, the 8th parliament in its “wisdom” decided to exonerate all of those that had been faulted PAC’s CHOGM report. But the Inspectorate of Government because of their legal mandate took up the matter and fresh investigations are/were done. Out of all those that were exonerated, it’s only the files of Bukenya and the Prime Minister AmamaMbabazi that have been taken on. Of course, Mbabazi was cleared. In Bukenya’s case, we see Motorcare being handled with kid gloves. Bukenya is remanded and Motorcare officials are not. If both of them are appearing as defendants then it should be just and fair that they are treated fairly as is required by the rules of natural justice. The principles of natural justice concern procedural fairness and ensure a fair decision is reached by an objective decision maker.
Maintaining procedural fairness protects the rights of individuals and enhances public confidence in the process. Right now public opinion is that the prosecution was selective.
Where do you see the fight on corruption in this country headed with the trial of Bukenya?
I don’t think the fight is headed anywhere, it’s the same old story. This is not the first time that high profile people are arrested –heads roll, headlines are made, government is given credit and that’s the end of the story –the same people then apply for bail because it’s their constitutional right, and then the usual happens; case drags on, and we never get to hear about it again. If Bukenya was tried while still Vice President, then that would have sent a strong message to those below him. Trying him when he no longer holds his office seems to imply that indirect immunity is offered while in the system.
As activists in the fight on corruption, in your opinion, why has the GAVI case dragged on?
The GAVI case has dragged on because the complainants raised certain legal issues that they felt had to be addressed. And, legally they have a right to a fair hearing. However, this has taken too long and justice delayed is justice denied. People want to see justice being done by court coming out and pronouncing itself on the case.
Former anticorruption court judge, Justice John BoscoKatutsi is on record saying the IGG is practicing selective prosecution. What is your view?
The IGG has wide statutory discretionary powers as to whom they can prosecute. Conveniently the IGG has used the law to decide whom they prosecute. The issue of Motorcare not turning up is contempt of court that should not be taken lightly. The IGG and those concerned should come out and dispel this perception of Motorcare. We also need to appreciate the fact, that at times the IGG’s office may not be well facilitated to adequately investigate all cases.
What about the scandal in the purchase of village and parish council leaders’ bicycles in the ministry of local government?
The levels of impunity in this country keep increasing. The bicycle saga shows that due diligence was never exercised before the contract was awarded. How can a contract worth that money be given to a non-existent company? This appears like a deliberate move to fleece tax payers’ money, and as usual nothing much will be done.