20 January 2013

Uganda: Tough Anti-Graft Bill Awaits Cabinet Nod

A Bill that the Government thinks will make corruption a risky venture has been drafted and is awaiting cabinet approval.

The revelation was made by ethics and integrity state minister Simon Lokodo in a telephone interview from Kyankwanzi at the close of the week.

It is dubbed the Proceeds of Corruption Assets Recovery Bill, 2013.

The piece of legislation, according to Lokodo who is also Dodoth West MP, "seeks to empower anti-graft agencies to seize, confiscate, and dispose of assets of individuals implicated in corruption".

The Bill also seeks to empower anti-graft agencies such as the Inspectorate of Government, the Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to follow the asset trail beyond individuals implicated in corruption.

The Bill seeks to extend assets trails to spouses of the implicated officials, their children and businesses where they have shares, especially in instances where the disposal of assets of convicted individuals falls short of paying for the stolen money.

"People implicated in corruption will no longer just get charged, convicted, jailed and later released to go home and enjoy their booty. We want to make corruption risky and as humiliating as possible," Lokodo said.

The minister said the Bill has already been handled by the First Parliamentary Counsel in tandem with the anti-graft interagency taskforce legal team.

"A memo to the cabinet secretariat regarding the Bill has been sent so that the Cabinet can pronounce itself on the matter," Lokodo said.

The development comes at a time when MPs John Ssimbwa (Makindye East), Ssempala Mbuga (Nakaseke South) and Patrick Nsanja (Ntenjeru South) are pushing for an amendment of the Anti-corruption Act, 2009 through a private members Bill to provide for the forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth.

The proposed amendment received a boost late last month when finance minister Maria Kiwanuka issued its movers with the mandatory Certificate of Financial Implication.

Asked about the glaring duplication of efforts in the private member's Bill and the Proceeds of Corruption Assets Recovery Bill, Lokodo said: "That amendment is going to be dropped."

Lokodo said some aspects of the private member's Bill such as confiscating, managing and disposing of ill-gotten wealth will have a charge on the Consolidated Fund, contrary to provisions in the Budget Act.

The Government's plan to enact stringent anti-graft laws comes at a time when the country has been rocked by a host of colossal scams, including the one in the Office of the Prime Minister that has seen some donor countries suspend aid to Uganda over alleged swindling of billions of shillings meant for reconstruction programmes in northern Uganda.

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