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Interview: Ethics & Integrity intensifies fights on corruption

(Last Updated On: 6 March 2024)

The government of Uganda under President Museveni Yoweri has in recent years heightened fights against corruption – with some corrupt officials being arrested.

From instituting a special docket headed by Lieutenant Colonel Edith Nakalema, among others, “big fish” have been arrested, with some undergoing prosecution.

This, however, has never reduced the practice as expected, with many government officials, and even those in private sectors doing it with apathy.

Now, the directorate of ethics and integrity, directly supervised by the Office of the President has come out with different strategies and proposals to ensure Uganda’s locals are empowered and are part of those shunning corruption.

On Tuesday, tndNews Milton Akwam caught up with Abola Nicholas, a commissioner in charge of communications and below the discourses.

Recently the ministry launched translated anti-corruption laws/books in Gulu. How will this help in the fight against corruption?

The directorate of ethics and integrity went to Gulu, northern Uganda to launch translated anti-corruption laws. This is an exercise designed before to try to help and support the common person to join the fight against corruption. We first started by simplifying the laws into simple English terms but the public demanded that we translate them into local languages so they could easily understand and appreciate the fight.

We had agreed that there should be translations in four major local languages. One; the Ateso, Luo, Runyakitara Toro-Rukiga and Luganda. We are doing it in phases due to financial resource constraints and so far we have translated into two local languages; Luo – not only for Acholi but for Luo speakers, including West Nile’s Jonam, popularly known as Alur and for Ateso, launched in Soroti.

Our main interest is not to translate for the sake of but to enable the public to understand and join the fight against corruption. For example, I was talking about the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Our surveys show that people who have been whistleblowing come back reporting that they’re being victimized by government officials – or some of those who have been reported. We also did the analysis and found out that some of the public don’t know how to “blow the whistle” and that is what now occasioned us to translate these laws so we can explain to them and the procedures.

For instance, you who’s going to blow the whistle must never reveal your identity to anybody, not even your wife or husband. That way you will have kept the confidentiality.

The government officials receiving your report should also not expose you. RDCs should not expose you. We have received several complaints that so and so as reported so and so.

Has there been severe challenges or gaps in reporting corruption?

 There has been a challenge of apathy. Apathy is a situation when you know about some problem in your society but you do nothing about it. The “I don’t care attitude”, so you want the situation just to continue. Fighting corruption many think is the work of the government (IGG) but the inspectorate cannot fight singlehandedly.

Another challenge is that this corruption takes place in a covert – very deep society, even in offices. So you need somebody who comes and helps the government to report that there is something wrong taking place there, and that’s where the role of the wanaanchi is very critical. We have found out that may be because of some good reasons they stay away from reporting or even rejecting corruption.

In some instances, they have even gone ahead to glorify the corrupt people, saying this is a very smart son of the soil and yet ideally, they should be shaming and exposing these public officers who steal public resources. That’s the reason we decided to connect with the locals to explain to them why without coming together it would be very difficult for the government to be everywhere seeing what is taking place in darkness.

We need to tell them what is being wasted or stolen is for them. Some individuals go ahead to bribe the public; we need to create a link between service delivery and fighting corruption and in the middle of it, it’s the wannanchi because the service delivery is for them, not the government.

We want a very vigilant society, that knows what belongs to them and they should stand up and demand for it. If they know anybody standing in the way of their service delivery, they should report it without fear or favour to the authorities so that the work of the government is limited to investigating, arresting, prosecuting and locking.

There is political corruption done before or during elections and the country is also promoting it. Are poor citizens playing a role(s) to see Uganda is corrupt-free?

Bad politics actually promotes corruption and not all politics are bad. Like I have told you before, bribery or voter bribery takes place because we have a public that has apathy, a public that cares about what belongs to them, a docile public (if I must use this word), a public that doesn’t know what is right and they don’t know that their votes are very important tools and can hold somebody accountable, and can give somebody power.

So, this still goes back to apathy and the need to sensitize the public. Our mission is to empower Ugandans to have strong values and principles for doing the right things for the right cause. We can’t go to every corner to reach every 30 million Ugandans, but we can’t only empower them to school.

The Directorate has now introduced a curriculum on ethics and integrity in primary schools and we are now heading to secondary schools so that the issue of corruption is taught as bad and we give the manifestation of how corruption comes to society.

Even in nursery schools, those kids vying as prefects are giving sweets and whatever they are doing they’re seeing from us! What we are saying is that they (the public) are aware of their rights and that their votes are not for sale.

Secondly, we have also got the National Ethics Values Policy (NEVP). The policy is supposed to promote ethical behaviours in the society. As a directorate, we have 10 national values and the last one is national consciousness and patriotism.

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Mr. Abola shows a book on fighting corruption during an interview on Tuesday.

That one, if you tell me the public can internalize, you must know what your nation is – you must sacrifice for your nation. You cannot say I’m conscious about my nation and patriotic when you’re being bribed. There are the tools we to go and sensitise and educate the public to be firm and to know that power belongs to them, the people.

Article One of the Constitution is not in vain, “power belongs to the people” because we are the people who can you to power and can remove you.

What’s the way forward in ending political corruption?

We have seen the gaps in laws on electoral processes and one of the things we want to be amended regarding the electoral reform is that there must be a way of restricting funds for campaigns. In other countries it works – that’s not enough. We must also limit what those funds should do. I have heard people saying we were paid facilitation; we should stipulate clearly that if you have money for campaigns, you can hire a bus to carry people to where you will address them rather than giving them real cash.

In the next constitutional amendment, we want to put (amend) two things. One; there must be a CAP for financing of campaigns. Two, it must be spelt clearer what money would be used for so that if you spend outside you will be exposed.

We also pushing political parties to introduce a CODE of CONDUCT. Each of these parties should come out with a CoC and when you have gone against your party codes it will be easy for us also to challenge you under the Leadership Code Amendment Act. But for us, we want the public to know their electoral rights.

So, as of now, how many copies of translated anti-corruption laws have been printed?

We printed, because of budget limitations 500 copies just for the first launch launch in the Teso subregion in 2013. And 500 copies for the Luo launch in Gulu recently.

We shall be printing yearly some sizable quantity given our budget and we are working with our partners – the Civil Society Organisation and Anti Corruption Coalition in Uganda who are doing work in the Karamoja subregion and have helped translate some of these laws into Karimojong. We also have Uganda Debt Network and many others.

Are these books being sold or free of charge? Where can I get a copy?

Well. For us as a government, we have a client charter. We are not a profit-making directorate and what we do is free service delivery. However, by the time we went to launch as I told you, because of resource constraints we only made a few copies and we distributed free of charge. Even with the little budget the government allocates to us, we are printing more than 10,000 copies.

What is the expectation of the directorate in the next five years? Are you looking at eliminating it?

Corruption can be reduced but not eliminated. We want to minimize so that we can propel economic development. Corruption is a long thing and we don’t see it stopping soon completely but we can minimise and control it not done with impunity, in ways that can curtail development and service delivery.

In the next five years, honestly, am not saying we are going to eliminate corruption – that’s too short but we have put in mechanisms that will drastically address and reduce political corruption. Why am saying so is that we have what is coming into force “The leadership code tribunal”.

The tribunal will help us to know how much wealth your LC5 chairman, MPs, teachers, and accountants have accumulated. They must declare and if we know you’re accumulating wealth and you can’t explain, we take you to the tribunal and before the State.

As part of asset recovery, we have been blamed for we only arrest, take them to Luzira, jail then they are back to their status. This time, we arrest you, make a conviction but also seize those assets. We have known most leaders declare what does not match what they have. Leaders should stop impunity and be accountable.


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