The issue: State House unit
Our view: The President can come up with a way of clothing the Unit in some law or choose to disband it. If neither is done, we shall end up with many more suits against the Unit and Attorney General.
Five people who recently fell afoul of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit have petitioned the High Court challenging the powers and mandate of the Lt Col Edith Nakalema-team. They argue that the unit is not clothed with the jurisdiction to investigate, arrest, let alone order the police to incarcerate and interrogate any officials already under investigation by any arm of government that could have been created under the Constitution to carry out investigations.
The five are also suing the Attorney General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Director Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department (CIID) and the officer in charge of Kabalagala Police Station for having kept them in custody beyond the constitutional 48 hours without being either arraigned before courts of law or being set free on bond.
Such a suit against the State House Anti-Corruption Unit was always bound to come given its high-handed approach. The tragedy here is that all that has so far happened could have been avoided.
For instance, it had, in the first place, not been necessary for the President to have constituted the Unit at a time when Parliament and government was talking of rationalising government agencies and statutory bodies. The rationalisation process is being overseen by the Ministry of Public Service.
The President should have instead made available to the office of the IGG more funds to help it cope with corruption, which seems to have taken to constant mutation.
If the President felt so strongly about the need to have this Unit in place, he should have provided it with a legal framework in much the same way the IGG is covered by the Inspectorate of Government Act. The Unit should have also been provided with competent and trained personnel to help them conduct investigations and guide their conduct during the course of their duties.
The Unit has so far been brusque in its work approach, which has resulted in the suits challenging their mandate and indirectly, their methods of work.
There are limited chances that the complainants will fail. As such, they are now highly likely to walk away with millions of shillings in damages. It is unfortunate that it will be the taxpayers and not members of the Unit who will pick up the bill.
We, however, have a chance to save the taxpayer more problems. The President can come up with a way of clothing the Unit in some law or choose to disband it. If neither is done, we shall end up with many more suits against the Unit and Attorney General.