By Agather Atuhaire
Justice Irene Mulyagonja was recently appointed Inspector General of Government. She spoke to journalists soon after her vetting by parliament. Agather Atuhaire has excerpts.
Congratulations upon your appointment, what does that mean for you and your career.
Thank you. It is humbling but let me inform you that I am not the IGG yet it all depends on the committee on appointments. If the committee deems it fit, I will occupy the office but they have not yet said so.
You are occupying an office that has been surrounded by controversy and accusations of failure to do its work. What strategy do you intend to use to fight corruption?
There are multi-pronged strategies involving investigation, prosecution, education and coordination with institutions that have the responsibility to fight corruption; the Uganda police force, the directorate of public prosecution, the directorate of ethics and integrity and others. But most importantly the general public has got to get involved in the fight against corruption. What happens now is the general public stands back and accuses institutions of not fighting corruption. But the question is what is the general public itself doing to fight corruption? Aren’t they in fact fueling corruption? Has the general public thought about the fact that they also contribute to the high levels of corruption in this nation?
How do you hope to deal with the political interference that has eroded the independence of the institution?
People have talked about political interference, but politicians are human beings. Just like the ordinary citizen whose relative or friend is being prosecuted will try to influence the prosecutor and the investigator, so do politicians. But I believe that the fight against corruption should not be politicised. This fight should simply be an objective process where each and every person who is alleged to have perpetrated an incidence of corruption should be investigated and if good credible evidence is found against them, only then should they be prosecuted. And if they are prosecuted, we should take it as a lesson; I do not want people to think that corruption is within a certain party, NRM, DP, CP or particular institutions. Corruption is a cancer that is present everywhere in this nation. So if a person from a particular institution or a particular party is investigated and evidence is found against them, the public should not be subjective and judge them basing on which party, institution or an organisation they are coming from.
What will you do to redeem the image of the office that you are soon occupying which most Ugandans have lost trust in?
My heart is to build an institution called the Inspectorate of Government. What has passed has passed. There is an institution and each IGG who has been there has made a contribution and their contribution should be appreciated because they have served. The institution was put in place but the structure of having IGG and two deputies has never been put in place thankfully now it is going to happen because the constitutional court held that unless we have an IGG and two deputies there will be no inspectorate of government by law established. What I intend to do is to use the structures according to the statute that sets it up to create a stronger institution. I want to institutionalise the mandate of the inspectorate of government so that we have an institution that is not dependent on any personality. We will have an institution which has structures and a good plan to execute the mandate that it has been given under the Inspectorate of Government Act and the Leadership Code Act. When you have this institution set, it doesn’t matter who heads it but its strength will speak for itself even if it suffers a weak leadership. The strength of the institution will speak for itself regardless of the person occupying it.
How will you deal with the issues on inadequate and inefficient manpower that has been reported within the institution?
There has got to be an assessment of the institution to see whether what is on the ground is what is required to fight corruption. After the assessment, a plan and strategies for strengthening and reevaluating the vision and mission of the institution will be put in place.
The public is not satisfied with the way the CHOGM cases were handled under the former acting IGG Raphael Baku. Will you consider reviewing them?
The answer is in the decision of the Constitutional Court I do not have to reiterate it. You look at the decisions and that is when you know what to do next about those cases. But I think the current IGG has worked out an arrangement with the Directorate of Public Prosecution to see what happens to those cases.
The former IGG has been accused of going for smaller fish while he let the big fish off the hook. Do we see you going for the big fish to step up the fight against corruption?
I said that the fight against corruption should not be politicised. If evidence is found against any one, be it a politician or any person in government. I have heard people say that may be the President who nominated me will tell me not to prosecute some people but I have been a judge for four years, I have had very many cases some of them involving politicians but I have never heard the President of Uganda tell any judge that spare so and so because he/she is my good friend. For example you saw that with the case of Gilbert Bukenya. Did you see him tell them not to file a case against him? Didn’t they file it? Didn’t they succeed?
But charges against Bukenya were later dropped dubiously..?
But who tells you that that is the end of it. If you are charged with an offense; the prosecution can be withdrawn but that does not mean it is the end of the matter especially if the person prosecuting you still has evidence. I cannot tell you either that I am going to prosecute him because I have never seen the files. So, I make no comment on that.