Early last week, the principal head of the State Hose Anti-Corruption Desk, Brigadier General Henry Isoke summoned all anti-corruption agencies like the office of the IGG – which is the lead agency, ISO, CMI, CID, the office of the Auditor General, the Police Standards Unit, and others, to brainstorm procedural matters and the idea of harmonizing the efforts of all the agencies.
The bodies were trying to avoid duplication of duties and unnecessary clashes. According to the appraisal reports, Brigadier Isoke’s desk has so far managed to put up a commendable job with statistics showing that he is investigating 10,000 government officials, has interdicted 200 government officials, and has managed to recover over UGX3Bn that had been swindled. With Ugandans losing faith in the conventional offices responsible for fighting corruption, they have opted to take their cases to the State House desk which is deemed to have the blessing of the President.
Brig Isoke has spent just a few months in office but has managed to receive unbelievable workloads that require to be covered by an agency five times bigger than he is holding.
It so happens that the office of the IGG and the CID has been by-passed because of their previous track record of dilly-dallying with corruption cases. But it’s also a fact that Brig Isoke has thrived because he has received the necessary budget together with the moral and political will to do the work. If you check the budget of the IGG, Auditor General or the CID, you will understand why they are not performing to the expected levels. The fight against corruption is one of the most delicate and intricate in the country. There seems to be the goodwill but the execution of that goodwill suffers sustained miscarriage of some sort. The few officials who tried to put in the work have ended up embarrassed as they encountered untouchable people who were at the heart of swindling government money. In Uganda, corruption is theoretically condemned but practically condoned.
And there are so many cases which prove that in most cases, the small fish are the ones that end up in the net while the big fish continue to flourish and swim in government resources with impunity. This is what the likes of lady Justice Irene Mulyagonja encountered at the office of the IGG. She personally confessed that there were untouchable people who were making the fight against the vice an impossible mission. In a move that effectively watered down Mulyagonja’s role, the President turned to his informal structures and appointed his former Personal Secretary, Lt Col Edith Nakalema as the head of the newly-formed State House Anti-Corruption Unit, at the end of 2018.
Museveni explained the rationale for creation of the Unit while at the same time directly accusing the Inspectorate of Government of being corrupt. “When people start complaining about a watchman, then you have to hire another watchman to watch over that watchman and that is why I started and set up units in the President’s office to watch over the IGG,” he said. That was the spirit in which the now Isoke-led Unit was introduced. Then, there was also, the case of State Minister for Economic Monitoring, Hon Peter Ogwang, who emerged with a lot of vigor. He seemed to be doing well by exposing cases where government was losing billions to fake contractors and government officials who were putting up a below par performance. Hon peter Ogwang performed so well prompting president Museveni to lavish praises on him
Gen Museveni was enthused by the fact that Ogwang had been able to be to so many places and in the process, amplified the fight against corruption, without asking for any special budget. To him, this was indicative that there is always a lot Ministers and other political leaders can do without requiring additional funding beyond what is available at their respective Ministries. Museveni observed that the high performance and service delivery standards, political supervisors like Ogwang had set at the Office of economic monitoring, prompted the hitherto sleeping giants like ISO to begin to wake up.
Gen Museveni observed that before he had appointed Ogwang, ISO, which is supposed to be the lead intelligence-gathering agency, had become so irrelevant and obscure he had even forgotten that they exist. But surprisingly, months after heaping praise on Ogwang, the President instead reshuffled him from the economic monitoring docket, to the less busy ministry of sports! Why would the President transfer a performing officer to another docket? The current IGG, Hon Betty Namisango Kamya also came up with the idea that government officials should be subjected to a lifestyle audit. By doing so, she reasoned, it would be easier to ascertain whether someone is flourishing or thriving on government resources by weighing the limits of what he earns as net salary from government.
If the lifestyle audit exposes luxurious lifestyle, then that person must be interdicted. For years, Hon Betty has been pushing for that idea but seems to have hit a dead end. What about Gen Salim Saleh‘s idea of granting pardon for those who bring back what they have stolen? A lot of initiatives have been brought up to arrest the trajectory of corruption in this country but most of it has ended up on paper. The way forward? It would have been a good idea if Brigadier Henry Isoke is simply appointed in an office that combines all government agencies into a merger to generate the necessary gravitas to fight corruption.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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