A frenzy without impact?
However some observers say that whereas the operations of the unit are commendable, it should see these actions to their logical conclusion if the war on corruption is to be won by the new entrants.
Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU), says the process on fighting corruption should be more than just a “frenzy” for it to have impact.
“The arresting does not amount to prosecution. The suspects can be released on police bond, but then again there are investigations to be made and a court process.”
Kagaba says such cases are usually frustrated by the typical case backlog and judicial corruption. “What’s the end game? Most likely they will get out,” she says.
Kagaba says the unit is doing good work but cautions that the new team needs to avoid doing work amidst a media frenzy. After all everyone is innocent until proven guilty. “The unit does not have its own police or judiciary. It has to work within existing structures.”
She adds, “Right now there are some bits of arrests and there is fear in public servants but we need to look at the bigger picture.” For Kagaba, what is even more important is to ensure that stolen monies are returned.
Since the Anti-Corruption is just getting started, it usually hands people of interest to the CIID to aid with investigations although a number of suspects have also appeared before the Anti-Corruption Court.
The State House Anti-Corruption unit does not respond to queries from the media although it regularly shares news of its raids on its Twitter page.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga says the unit has a police component attached to it and that it works with police in a gazette area. “They have an arm that gathers intelligence which is what coordinates with the public,” he says. To him, they are there to support the work of the CIID and the Anti-Corruption Court.
Franca Akello, Agago Woman MP and the new chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee on Local Government says enough time should be given to the new unit. However she says the team is doing the right thing because that is what Ugandans have been waiting for, for a long time.
She agrees though with Kagaba on one thing. “We should ensure that for the kind of people who are found culpable of swindling government resources, recoveries of money are made.”
She adds that they should not just end up in jail. Akello says that when in a few days, her committee starts conducting hearings of accounting officers, she hopes she will collaborate with Nakalema’s unit.
There are concerns about the proverbial big fish when it comes to fighting corruption in Uganda. Going forward, scrutiny may be placed on the unit for the big shots it can fell such as ministers, permanent secretaries or even MPs.
Abbas Agaba, MP for Kitagwenda County tells The Independent he appreciates the President’s efforts on dealing with corruption and he thinks different tactics should be employed although he thinks every effort can be improved.
“We do not want it to act in a disjointed manner but sometimes people respond to situations that scare them,” he says. He says the unit should be beefed up that it has a proper legal status. He cites other dangers that the unit may come into when it does not have a well-established status.
“There are times when the State House Health Monitoring Unit would victimise people. For instance they would arrest an innocent doctor and cause them humiliation”, he adds that the lack of professionalism may be a liability.
Agaba stresses that Nakalema’s unit ought to be linked to a legal unit. “Having a counsel is not enough. There must be a more able bodied team to assess the case. Right now they are doing the work of a state attorney and a trial magistrate.”
He says it is important to deal with people respectfully without jeopardising their work. “SIU in Kireka has long ceased to be credible. People would spend five days in detention and suffer all the embarrassment before meaningful prosecution could take place.”
For now, Nakalema and her unit are operating with the ammunition of having the blessing from the highest office in the land. District officials whom The Independent spoke to about possible operations in their territory were coy on commenting the work of the unit.
“You may comment today and the next day you are the victim,” one CAO said, another one commented. “Up to now, I don’t understand the mandate of that unit.”