Uganda vows to fight corruption

Minister Lokodo says the country will amend Leadership Code Act to allow asset recovery from corrupt officials

Uganda vows to fight corruption
Ugandan Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo has described the scourge of corruption not only as an affront to human dignity, but also as an obstacle to development in the East African country.

"Corruption is an enemy; a destroyer. I have always compared it to terrorism. It damages and kills," Lokodo told The Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

"Corruption maims the progress towards the transformation of the country and [as a result] we remain underdeveloped and poor," he said.

The government allocated 2.3 trillion Ugandan shilling for infrastructure upkeep and development in the 2013/14 fiscal year.

"If it was not for corruption, infrastructure would be high," Lokodo insisted. "Go to health centers. We pour in drugs, but people continue to suffer, die or lack drugs."

The minister pointed to infrastructure projects in the Karamoja region, one of Uganda's poorest areas.

"There are shallow valley dams and bridges that you can just throw a brick on top of the other and it falls," he fumed.

Karamoja is administered by the prime minister's office, while First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni serves as state minister for Karamoja affairs.

Despite the elaborate legal and policy framework set up to combat corruption in Uganda, research suggests that corruption is on the rise, manifesting itself in new ways and becoming more sophisticated in nature and scope.

According to local anti-corruption activists, Uganda has lost over 2.5 trillion shillings in a total of 24 major corruption scandals since 2000.

Reports issued by Uganda's inspector-general of government indicate that abuse of office is the main form of corruption, accounting for 15 percent of all complaints received, followed by bribery at 7.1 percent, and embezzlement of public funds at 5.2 percent.

Last week, Uganda was ranked 142nd in Transparency International's 2014 Global Corruption Perception Index, falling two places since last year's index.

Loopholes

Uganda has a number of laws aimed at curbing corruption, including the 2002 Leadership Code Act, which lays down a minimum standard of behavior and conduct for public officers.

It requires them to declare their incomes, assets and liabilities and calls for an effective enforcement mechanism to address other corruption-related matters.

"There are loopholes in our laws; they aren't airtight in many cases," Minister Lokodo told AA.

With pressure mounting, especially from donors, to get wrongdoers to return pilfered funds, the government appears to have realized that the code does not provide for those who have been convicted to have their assets and properties seized.

Lokodo, who heads up all graft-fighting government agencies, said the Leadership Code was currently under discussion by the Cabinet, adding that an amendment would soon be tabled for parliamentary endorsement.

If approved, the amendment would mean that, once someone declares their property to the inspector-general of government as stipulated by the Leadership Code, whatever they had accumulated beyond their official salaries would be subject to investigation.

"So I am moving and coming with a non-conviction based asset recovery of the corrupt," Lokodo told AA.

"We ask you to please explain why you have four chairs instead of three. Give us an explanation for that fourth one. If you fail [to do so], we will seize it," he explained.

Lokodo, however, blames the country's judiciary for "errors" by which many culprits are exonerated – even after being convicted.

"People are given bail even when they know they've taken monstrous amounts of money, leaving many Ugandans destitute," he said.

Nevertheless, the minister remains hopeful that Uganda's recently launched 2014/19 national anti-corruption strategy will help bring official corruption to heel and restore public ethics.

AA

Last Mod: 11 Aralık 2014, 13:14
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