Ugandan analyst Jasper Mpiriirwe notes that legal implementations, not legal codes, are the trouble spots in Uganda. Uganda has the largest gap between law and practice of any country Global Integrity studied in 2007.
Laws Alone Will Not Help
By Jasper Mpiriirwe
Reprinted from The Monitor (Kampala), 8 March 2008
I have heard many times the hullabaloo of enacting more laws especially against corruption. Uganda has made a lot of strides in the legal framework as far as corruption in Africa is concerned. In fact on comparative terms, the legal framework in our country ranks among the best in Africa with the Global Integrity Report putting it at 90%.
Government has now tabled the Whistle Blowers Bill and the Witness Protection Bill in parliament which are supposed to protect a person who discloses information against a public official on misconduct, corruption.
These bills, if passed, will further reinforce the Inspectorate of Government Act 2002, the Leadership Code Act 2003, the Access to Information Act 2005, Public Procurement and Disposal Of Assets Act 2003 etc on the fight against corruption.
However, for some reason, whistleblowers have remained more endangered than suspected fraudsters! Clear previous recommendations to protect whistleblowers have just been ignored by corrupt management. It seems therefore that although on one hand there will be a law to protect a whistleblower, on the other hand the enforcement of any legislation depends on the mood of the implementer rather than the legal provisions!
A whistleblower is a person who on his own free will makes a disclosure on corruption, misconduct or criminal offence by a public official or agency to a person or agency capable of investigating the complaint. Ask Athanasias Kakwemire, formerly of NDA if you want to know the cost of whistle blowing in Uganda.
Uganda is a signatory to the UN Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption 2003 and Article 33 provides that each state/party shall consider incorporating into its domestic system measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and reasonable grounds to competent authorities any facts or acts of corruption.
The 1995 Constitution as amended provides that “all public offices shall be held in trust for the people, all persons placed in positions of leadership and responsibility shall, in their work, be answerable to the people, and all lawful measures shall be taken to expose, combat and eradicate corruption and abuse or misuse of power by those holding political or other public offices.”
The Access to Information Act is in force and one of its purposes is to protect persons disclosing evidence of contravention of the law, corruption etc. The regulatory and institutional framework of this Act as provided is still ‘hot air’ to date.
Whistleblower legislation indeed will be another tool to expose and combat corruption in Uganda. But all that government needs is a mechanism that would ensure enforcement of the law. The Bill will seek to protect whistleblowers and witnesses in corruption cases from reprisals, dismissal, victimisation by the accused persons or institutions but our history shows the opposite.
What we need therefore is more of the will than just words!
The writer is a policy analyst and coordinator, Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda