7 April 2010

Uganda: IGG Corruption Fight - Why Do Cases Fail in Court?

Kampala — In the past few weeks, most of the cases the former Inspector General of Government (IGG), Faith Mwondha, put against several local leaders have collapsed.

The most high profile case was when Thomas Mulondo, the LC5 chairman of Kayunga, who was thrown out of his seat, three years ago regained it after the IGG lost interest according to a statement from the IGG's Office.

A week later, former Lubaga North MP, Ken Lukyamuzi, also won a petition against the IGG. Court said he had been relieved of his duties wrongly.

Other unclear cases included those of Beswale Kezaala, the Jinja mayor and Mohamed Kanakulya, an education officer in Kamuli district, who also won the case against the IGG.

IGG accuses Mulondo

He was accused of using about sh1.9m, allocated for his fuel on personal businesses and employing a driver who had failed interviews which caused the district financial losses.

However, Mulondo maintained that these were politically motivated cases that the IGG should have investigated more before arresting him.

He says having fallen out with many political leaders and civil servants in the district, including then chief administrative officer (CAO) Maira Mukasa, he became the IGG's target.

For the last few years, the IGG has led to the arrest of over 40 local leaders across the country.

IGG corruption reports

According to the report of January to June 2008, 133 cases were reported from districts by whistle blowers, comprising 14.5% of total cases. Cases of municipalities, which are also local governments accounted for 6.8%.

In the 2009 report, local governments, were mentioned as the leading corrupt institutions in the country again, with 20% of the reports received. In the same report, Kampala had 149 complaints, Masaka 40, while Kabarole had 32.

"The complaints were forwarded by many sources including district leaders and other whistle blowers," the IGG, Raphael Baku said.

Cases fail to reach court

However, these cases rarely go through the courts of law. In most cases, the IGG recommends a course of action. In Mulondo's case, the recommendation was that he vacates office, a decision which was overturned in court.

Why do cases fail?

Local leaders argue that most of the cases the IGG handles have political motivation and lack substantial evidence that can see them through the courts. They cite the Mulondo and Kezaala cases as examples.

And at the end of the day, it is the Government at loss as the acquitted local leader has to be paid

In recent years, the only case involving local leaders that the IGG successfully prosecuted was against MP Herbert Sabila.

In Mulondo's case, he is supposed to be paid all his salary and allowances which is about sh72m for the three years that he has not been in office.

Lukyamuzi may be paid over sh90m, for which he was not even representing people in Parliament.

Leaders lose trust in IGG

During a recent retreat of IGG and local leaders from the Lango region at Lira Hotel in March, Lira mayor Peter Owiny, accused the IGG of being partisan and unable to fight corruption.

"We support the IGG's fight against corruption, however, our argument is that some of the reported cases are politically motivated," said Iganga district chairman, Asuman Kyafu.

They argue that although there is corruption among local leaders, most of the cases brought up are politically motivated.

When Mulondo was arrested and physically molested three years ago, local politicians in the district predicted that the arrest was just another chapter in a power struggle whose dimensions change everyday.

"These problems result from politicians who have failed to respect their boundaries," says Muwanga Kisaalita, then secretary for finance and administration, and councillor for Kayunga Town Council. He was later charged with Mulondo, but has since been acquitted.

Just like Kezaala said during his trial, the IGG office should look beyond the mentioned cases.

Local leaders argue that if the IGG worked closely with them, the results of these cases would be less embarrassing.

Uganda Local Government Association (ULGA) ethics and accountability committee deputy secretary, Rose Gamwera, says the IGG should work closely with the Accountability and Ethical Code of Conduct Committee of local leaders if it is to have a headway in fighting corruption in local governments.

Local leaders say the whistle blowers who the IGG depends on for information may lack the right data about a particular corruption case.

"We are all committed to fighting corruption, however, it is important that the masses are given the right information about budgeting and accountability issues. Otherwise, most of the cases might be based on wrong premises and hearsay, which is why when the said corrupt local leaders are taken to court, none of the cases succeeds," explained Peter Ogwang, Speaker of Dokolo district and member of the ULGA Ethics and Accountability Committee.

IGG speaks out

In various reports, the IGG argues that the office is still challenged with limited man-power to effectively investigate cases and powers to see the prosecution of corruption cases through.

However, the Government seemed to have answered this by introducing the anti-corruption court that recently started hearing cases. Previously, corruption cases were heard in ordinary courts.

Way forward

District leaders suggest working work with the IGG in handling corruption.

Gamwera says: "Our charter of ethics and accountability empowers us to work with the IGG, the Police and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to solve corruption in local governments. This is the best way forward."

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