The squabble between Chief Justice Bart Katureebe and Inspector General of Government Irene Mulyagonja, about prosecuting or not, of magistrates caught in the acts of stealing money, is merely a case of splitting hairs.
Their spat is over two magistrates: Richard Ndangwa and Freddie Awacnedi, who, during their respective duties, asked for and got bribes to decide the cases. The matter of these judicial officers, who were “caught in the act”, boils down to cases of crimes committed. It is also a case of requirements and/or failures by their superiors to take administrative sanction over them.
These issues involve the exercise of discipline and the abuse of authority by those officers who are supposed to take the managerial functions. These are factors that border on the moral character and the integrity of those people.
So, the fight over corruption is not just on catching the thieves and reconverting the public money stolen, but it is also the issue of recovering the national moral fiber that existed before the advent of the NRM regime. All these issues require urgent and complementary attention, because dealing with one and leaving the other, will still leave a gap that is exploitable. Whether a person steals a billion shillings or five thousand, he/she is still a thief!
For Mulyagonja, she should not just ignore the criminality because of the perception of the level or validity, but that she should have the function to refer such acts of criminality to the next office and official who has the managerial or administrative function to deal with the case. If she does not do these, and allows this loophole, the corruption haemorrhage will not stop.
She also raises other loopholes that make her office particularly vulnerable to the thieves circumventing its veracity. She talks of a limited budget, staffing level and the general crush of un-disposed-off cases. Again, she has touched on the functions of offices above her own: for instance, Parliament.
It should legislate the amount of money necessary for her to carry out her duties, but if the crocodiles are also, either in ,or involved with Parliament, then they can be at the center of vetoing any money necessary for Mulyagonja to function so that their thefts remain unchecked.
It will not be far-fetched that such money would go to making it possible to catch them. In effect, we may be in a chicken-and-egg situation of which came first, but we should not be constrained by it.
Take two examples of the cases which are currently on her docket; the 783b/= stolen from the Ministry of Health and the 102b/= hived off from the Ministry of Works’ Uganda National Roads Authority. Just these two cases alone are worth nearly a trillion shillings; it shows clearly that crocodiles are involved. And they will do all possible to stymie their being revealed, either by further bribery or, threats of death to the investigating officers – or, actual murder of the said officers.
However, where these are concerned there are definitely people who know about their theft and can agree to be whistleblowers. In such a case they can be named; and when their nefarious acts come into the limelight, they will be shamed and prosecuted.
For the small fry that Mulyagonja is reluctant to act on it is still agreeable that there is adequate “service commission safeguards” that should be taken. Take the case of the issuance of passports, for example where the Ministry of Internal Affairs is the managerial agency. One of the things it should do to stop the corruption, is the re-drafting of the forms to be filled when applying for a passport.
The requirement of going to Resident District Commissioner to LCs to GISOs – the Gombolola Intelligence Officers – to DISOs – the District Intelligence Officers – to Police for verification, is unnecessary and time-consuming. All these people demand bribes before letters written to vouch for the applicant and the forms signed and stamped.
It means that if a non-Ugandan wants a passport, all he/she has to do is to bribe the officers. Terrorists can easily exploit this loophole. The amount of money these people ask for is even smaller than what Mulyagonja is complaining about.
Where the magistrates were asking for a bribe of 250,000/=, these people ask for between five to ten thousand shillings. Surely, the Government should come up with a better security measure and forms than the mere inconvenience it is causing in the service of extending the practice of thefts of the small fry. And this is practiced in virtually all the small Government offices, thus making bribery and theft endemic.