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Do public assets, funds and interests have a custodian?

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Do public assets, funds and interests have a custodian?

Inconsiderate Ugandans drive their cars with full lights on

Inconsiderate Ugandans drive their cars with full lights on

Modernity has brought flash toilets to replace our traditional latrines and they are being embraced in all senses of the word. While at the University we had a public flash toilet at our faculty.  It was quite hard to find it clean because the users never bothered to flash after using it.

If you had to use it you were required to flash down the drains your predecessor’s wastes first. This stabbed my conscious for sometime wondering why someone would leave the toilet without flashing. I got consoled by the thought that maybe it is because they were students.  To my dismay I still see the same thing happening at the work place and at so many respected working places elsewhere.

Naturally human beings are selfish and inconsiderate. They seem to care about themselves and never mind about others. That’s why after using a public toilet one thinks that those who will come after him or her shouldn’t find a clean toilet.

Even in public offices one is tempted to think that he or she is supposed to use the office for personal gains and not to provide services to the public. This is one of the greatest challenges that a country is likely to face.

Nocturnal drivers will agree with me that while on the road you are likely to find other drivers driving their vehicles in full light, to the danger of fellow drivers on the road.

Even when you flash them begging that they remove full lights, they stubbornly continue. The bottom line is that people don’t mind about others but only think about themselves. If this is the case then you can never expect such people to serve the public beyond taking advantage of the opportunities that come with their offices in order to privately gain or enrich themselves. This amounts to abuse of office.

Misconduct in public office is an offence at common law. It is an offence confined to those who are public office holders and is committed when the office holder acts or fails to act in a way that constitutes a breach of the duties of that office. The offence is committed when a public officer willfully neglects to perform his duty and or willfully misconducts himself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder without reasonable excuse or justification.

Abuse of office literally means abuse of public trust; the trust that people had put in while giving you that office. Public officers carry out their duties for the benefit of the public as a whole. If they neglect or misconduct themselves in the course of those duties this may lead to a breach or abuse of the public’s trust. It goes ahead to mean dishonestly obtaining a benefit for himself or herself or for another person and dishonestly causing a detriment to another person.

Vast majority of Ugandan bureaucrats abuse their offices or involve in other corrupt practices for self-enrichment.  The Anti-Corruption Court, set up in 2009 as a special division of the High Court to try corruption suspects, has over the past years convicted tens of officials for embezzlement, for corruption and on abuse of office charges.  Corruption and abuse of offices are a threat to good governance if not checked.

According to the World Bank corruption is most commonly defined as the misuse or the abuse of public office for private gain. It can come in various forms and a wide array of illicit behavior, such as bribery, extortion, fraud, nepotism, graft, speed money, pilferage, theft, and embezzlement, falsification of records, kickbacks, influence peddling, and campaign contributions.

Action towards curtailing corruption is perceived as a commitment towards creating good governance. As such, discussion of corruption is almost always conducted within the framework of good governance.

Good governance plays an important role in the development process, and requires the highest standards of integrity, openness and transparency.

The main requisites for good governance include:  political legitimacy for the state through democratic elections and transfer of power and an effective political opposition and representative government, accountability and transparency in the sharing of information, separation of powers,  effective internal and external audit, effective means of combating corruption and nepotism,  competence of public servants,  impartial and accessible justice systems; and  the absence of arbitrary government power.

The gross mismanagement we see in the public sector and the misuse of public funds and assets are a manifestation of the poor governance that must be checked by the authorities concerned. Work ethics and integrity are fundamental values in arresting this situation otherwise government officials will continue to mess up everything on account that people are only obliged to protect personal interests and not public interests.

 

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