In Summary

The issue: Fighting corruption.

Our view: It is important that the two offices do not undermine the confidence of the people in their ability to deliver on their mandate.
It is exactly scenarios such as these that the corrupt love and thrive on.

President Museveni’s surprise tongue-lashing of the office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG) during his State-of-the-Nation address on Wednesday and his announcement that he has created a small team in his office to fight graft has been received by the country with apprehension.

Naturally the IGG, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, was stung by the criticism and has reacted by telling the President that her failures are his failures as well because not enough resources have been made available to her to catch the thieves. She also went a little further and said many corrupt people are hiding behind the President.

The President is the fountain of honour and the country will not want to believe that the corrupt are hiding behind him – even without his knowledge. Similarly, whatever the failures of the office of the IGG, many Ugandans are convinced that in the circumstances it is the only weapon they have to fight the theft of public resources.
It is, therefore, important that the two offices do not – by speaking with reckless abandon – undermine the confidence of the people in their ability to deliver on their mandate.

It is exactly scenarios such as these that the corrupt love and thrive on because it gives them spaces to hide as they loot with little possibility of getting caught. It is, therefore, important that the President refrains from undermining bodies constitutionally created and mandated to fight corruption.

Instead, he should make resources available to the IGG so that there are no excuses for failure to deliver on the job.
Handpicking a few people and by presidential proclamation giving them the big assignment of fighting corruption will not yield much. In fact, it may replicate corruption!

Conversely, the IGG should take a moment of introspection and realise that indeed the scorecard so far is poor. As the President said, many people distrust the IGG’s office because they have seen its officers used to score personal scores in the name of fighting corruption. She needs to weed out the corrupt officers who give the institution a bad name. It should be easy to catch them.

Ultimately to restore public confidence, office of the IGG will have to start being more open to the public rather than hide information. Yes, this may require some amendments to the Leadership Code so that once a leader declares their assets, this information is available to the public on request. Then the public can help the IGG pick holes in the declarations.