24 February 2013

Uganda: I Have No Regrets, Says Baku


Deputy Inspector General of Government, Raphael Baku's contract expired last week, ending an eight-year stewardship of the inspectorate that was dotted with a string of controversies.

To some, he was seen as a lame-duck IGG, perceived to be working under the influence of some powerful politicians. He thinks otherwise, as Hussein Bogere and Sulaiman Kakaire found out.

Any regrets after eight years of service?

Whatever I have done as acting IGG and deputy IGG was guided by the law. I did not go outside the law. So, it is not true that I have ever been used either by the appointing authority or anybody else to fight political wars of any kind.

To the contrary, what has happened is that some of my actions were politicized by some members of the political class. I think that was very unfortunate because we did not, at any one moment, act out of political inclination.

Any particular cases you are proud of?

There was one of [David] Chandi Jamwa [former NSSF Managing Director]whom we prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to a long term. But as you know, he is out on bail pending an appeal. There is also one of former MP Yohas Bihande who was convicted on his own plea. He didn't want to go further because the evidence was overwhelming.

That case, for me, was very good because it led to Parliament abolishing the Constituency Development Fund, because they thought it was going to bring them trouble if we investigated all MPs on how they used the CDF. However, we have not been able to perform as well as we should, because of human resource and financial constraints.

But some cases you took up were bungled up and the suspects walked free?

That is not unique to Uganda. In many parts of the world, especially the third world, it is very difficult to prosecute people who are in very senior leadership positions. There are two problems. One, especially in the case of [former VP] Prof Gilbert Bukenya, there were some witnesses we wanted to bring from Kenya, but we didn't because the judge wasn't willing to extend the time for us to handle the case.

Our evidence wasn't complete and the case was prematurely terminated. For the three ministers [Sam Kutesa, John Nasasira and Mwesigwa Rukutana] you can see that the people who were involved in the transactions were civil servants. Our witnesses of necessity had to be the civil servants, who were present and of course the relationship between them and the politicians was awkward because they couldn't give evidence against their political leaders.

Their evidence was compromised. The judgment did not capture the gist of our case. We were saying the ministers went to Munyonyo, held a meeting and committed government to spend money on private property. Their argument was that they did not hold a meeting, they went for inspection. But whatever they discussed within the inspection resulted in the agreement of money being paid and now there is no chance of recovering it.

So, whom should we have held responsible if not those three? The judge didn't see our point. They [politicians] exercise influence, either informal or formal within the system, especially in countries where the systems are not so strong, that the individuals tend to be more powerful than the institutions. I think that could be part of the explanation why they were easily let off the hook.

What would be your recommendation?

That everybody who is being prosecuted should definitely vacate office until the prosecution has ended. This seems to apply only to public officers, but to political officers, it seems to be a different standard where they tend to remain in office even when they are undergoing prosecution.

Your tenure will always be associated with claims of selective prosecution, does that bother you?

I have said this and I am going to repeat it; there is no prosecuting authority in the world which conducts indiscriminate prosecution. Prosecution is of necessity, always selective, meaning you establish that a crime has been committed and you then have to conduct investigations.

In the process, you rule out some suspects until you zero in on one you want to take to court. Even before that, you have to decide as a prosecutor whether the evidence you have is reasonable enough to secure a conviction. Once you come to that conclusion, you can then take the person to court, you don't take everybody.

There were claims that you went after Prof Gilbert Bukenya to settle a political score for somebody in government.

If anybody had any reason to believe that I had instructions from the Prime Minister [Amama Mbabazi]or anybody else, the onus is on that person to bring evidence to that effect. I have never interacted with the prime minister on any case I took to court, leave alone Bukenya's.

What you people should appreciate is that the IGG has a Constitutional guarantee of independence. I think it would even be wrong for the IGG to consult or to discuss or to take instructions from anybody before taking any case to court.

I even guarded against that. I didn't want any trace of consultation or interaction between me and the prime minister or any other person on any matter I contemplated taking to court. So, I acted purely on the basis of the merits of the case.

What has your relationship with senior government officials been like?

I would say the president and other government officials have respected the Inspectorate. I have acted without undue influence from any of the senior leaders.

Did you ever receive any instructions from either the president or a government member?

No, the IGG is not subject to instructions. The Constitution says the IGG shall be independent and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority. Government officials are aware of that and they, therefore, couldn't have done something that is contrary to the Constitution.

Are you friends with Hon Mbabazi?

I don't know why there is that strong perception that we are buddies; we are not. I first met Mbabazi at the university while I was the vice president of the students' guild. So, one time I think he heard about me and that is how I got in touch with him.

From then on I worked with him, the last time being when he was minister of state for defence; a long time ago. Of course we were together in the 6th Parliament. That's all. There is nothing intimate between me and him.

The president wrote a letter, last November, to the donors in which he said the inspectorate was infiltrated and he was hoping the new IGG (Irene Mulyagonja) would do a cleanup job. That must have been an indictment on you.

I don't know why it should. The IGG has got a system of recruitment. There is an Appointments Board which is responsible for recruitment of the staff of the inspectorate other than the IGG, the deputies and secretary to the Inspectorate of Government. Where do we recruit? From the streets; we advertise, Ugandans apply, we conduct interviews, and those who satisfy the board are recruited.

So, I don't know what it means to be infiltrated. That is the procedure we use. So, you can even say that the police are infiltrated or public service which means when you recruit, you may end up with people who don't share the same thinking with the government. So, it is possible for the president to perceive other members of the IGG as not being equal to the task. I don't think he can call his own appointees as having been infiltrated; otherwise, the infiltration could have been done through him.

A year ago, in an interview, you called for tribunals to enforce the Leadership Code Act (LCA), did you make any headway?

We have made efforts. We discussed it within the inter-agency forum, we made recommendations and it should be going to cabinet to amend the LCA to provide for the establishment of the tribunal and its composition, powers and procedures. The matter is now between the directorate of ethics and cabinet.

Do you think corruption is on the rise?

I think somebody needs to do a study to establish the risk of corruption in Uganda. I will not say that [the] corruption being unearthed now started two years ago or three. I think it has been there but the problem is that it hasn't been exposed. I think corruption has been in Uganda for a very long time but now the efforts of exposing it have intensified and the public concern has intensified and so the publicity.

It is good, because in the past, corruption was treated like any other offence to be handled by the police. But the creation of the Anti-Corruption Act which specifies several offences as corruption has also widened the scope of corruption in Uganda.

You have said you are available for any deployment, is that a plea for a government job?

I said I'm available for any other deployment and I'm also available for any other engagement in the private sector. That is why my move from here will be to the chambers of a law firm.

If I'm given another opportunity to serve in the public sector, I will also consider it. When you have been IGG for the period I have been and with my age, definitely you don't wish to go and sit idle somewhere. I am not of retirement age. I'm still useful to the public. If that opportunity is not there, I will find some space in the private sector.

Any regrets?

I don't have any. I tried my best to play my role in accordance with the law with diligence and, therefore, there is nothing I wish to have done better. I gave serious thought to everything I did and, therefore, have no regrets.

Did people ever approach you to "kill cases"?

I have said no to people who tried to approach me. I would cite the law every time someone approached me. They gave up. So, I have not suffered from undue influence or attempts to influence me. For me that has been the principle.

I have had a clear conscience on that. I have not been spending sleepless nights because somebody has been taken to court. I am not the problem, they are. If you put yourself under suspicion, why should you blame me for suspecting you? When suspicion is sufficient, you are taken to court to answer, that has been my principle.

Of the three arms of government, which one do you think is the most corrupt?

They are not easy to compare because the judiciary is sometimes adversely reported on as the most corrupt. They have been challenging me that I treat them like the police, who are one institution in the Executive.

They have been saying they should be compared with the entire Executive. In terms of numbers and resources allocated to the three arms, there is little in comparison. The Executive has the largest resources and number of employees; so, I think they would feature most if a comparison was done.

What do you think can be done to stem corruption?

Strong law enforcement. We have the laws, one or two may be lacking, but they are good. The problem has been enforcement.

Do you think Museveni has failed to enforce the law?

Enforcement is not by the president, he is the head of the Executive. Law enforcement is by the police, DPP, IGG and the administrators in government public institutions. There may be a criminal component of law enforcement which can be handled by the IGG and DPP but there are also other administrative law enforcement responsibilities on accounting officers, on heads of public institutions. So, all those should play their role as a way of fighting corruption.

Do you think Museveni lacks the will to fight corruption?

I don't agree with many Ugandans who think that the president should do everything. He presides over the country which has institutions with specific mandates to do certain things. I have argued with the ministry of Finance that these institutions must be adequately funded so that they can play their role effectively.

I don't think it is correct to say there is corruption and therefore the president is responsible. What about the Inspectorate, the DPP, police, anti-corruption court and all the others. All institutions are supposed to be empowered to perform their roles. It is not correct to look at the president.

What are your views of Mr Museveni?

I think he has made an invaluable contribution to Uganda, if you have followed the history of Uganda and his public life. He has made a commendable job. Of course not everything can be done at once. He is now focusing on corruption more than ever before. The other institutions should also play their roles.

The president once said he did not want to appoint a poacher. It appears he never had your full confidence.

The IG isn't a civil servant; so, there is no question of confirmation. I think if the president wanted to appoint me, he would have. But what happened is that I had been appointed as deputy which I accepted for four years. I was, therefore, not a candidate for IGG. So, when he was looking for an IGG who isn't a poacher, I think he was looking outside the IG.

The qualifications and appointment of the IGG and deputy are exactly the same. By the fact that I was appointed deputy IGG, I was also serving as IGG and under the Act, the definition of IGG includes the deputy. So, I think the perception some people have that the president was referring to me as a poacher was wrong.

How would you want to be remembered?

I definitely want to dismiss the allegation that I have been working under the influence of either political or other interests. I think I have done my best to perform the responsibilities of the IG [Inspectorate of Government] in accordance with the law in spite of the difficult circumstances I was in.

I was alone as acting IGG when we should have been three, I think we have raised the stakes for the IGG. The way the IG has played its role, one may think we are more than 300. I think I have been as professional as I can be and that is what I should be remembered for.

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