Kampala. The Inspectorate of Government wants Parliament to enact a law empowering the anti-graft agency to seize assets of suspected corrupt officials who fail to explain source of their wealth.
Ms Sarah Birungi, the head of Legal Affairs at the Inspectorate, said attaching such property even during a suspect’s trial will signal to bureaucrats that theft of public resources does not pay.
“For the civil recovery approach, we are intending to proceed against the assets themselves; the [suspected] criminal explains to the public how they got the property and if it is not commensurate with their income, then definitely that property should be forfeited to the state,” she said.
She added: “That is the law that we think is lacking.”
The current legal regime offers the discretion of whether or not to order seizure of assets of corrupt officials to courts, something the Ombudsman says is frustrating. The state has, even in cases of successful prosecution of corruption suspects, seldom recovered assets of the culprits.
As a result, Ms Birungi noted that “the culprits on conviction go to prison, serve their sentence…come back and enjoy the proceeds of their crimes”.
“We need to get back those properties and then put them back to service,” she said.
The IG’s top legal officer said this during a one-day workshop they organised in Kampala on Friday to discuss a blueprint for the proposed legislation intended to curb graft.
Officials from various ministries and government agencies, including Ethics ministry staff and High Court judges attended.
Ethics minister Simon Lokodo, however, said enactment of such a legislation is likely to stall because members of the Cabinet, who approve the broad principles of proposed laws, would develop cold feet over concerns that they could end up victims.
“This is the way to go… I appeal to the office of the Solicitor General so that any legal obstacles to have this law in place is removed,” the minister said.
Justice Jane Frances Abodo, a judge in the Criminal Division of the High Court, said enactment of the law would ease prosecution by consolidating motley different laws on asset recovery.
“We have civil laws almost coming to ten which deal with asset recovery. We need one law so that when the prosecutor comes to court, they refer to one legislation which makes our work and the whole process of prosecution easy,” she said.
In February, Transparency International, the global anti-graft watchdog, ranked Uganda the third most corrupt East African country. This is the same slot it occupied the previous year.