The Inspector General of Government, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, has said most corrupt government officials are “hiding behind” the back of President Museveni and use their connection to the Head of State to defeat or escape justice.
Ms Mulyagonja said the corrupt are powerful and whenever she attempts to pursue them they fight back and they often win the fight.
She insisted that despite the frustrations in trying to catch the “powerful thieves,” she will not resign but continue and see out her contract.
“I do not resign anyhow and I have only two years remaining to finish my contract. I still have a lot to do in fighting corruption. There are people who present the front that we are not competent enough to investigate them. May be they think my officers are too junior to investigate them. Let the special unit (appointed by the President) do the senior role,” Ms Mulyagonja told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview yesterday evening.
During the State-of-the-Nation Address on Wednesday, President Museveni questioned the effectiveness of the IGG and her officers in fighting corruption.
He announced an alternative unit under his office which will fight corruption in the country.
However, Justice Mulyagonja told a press conference at her office earlier in the afternoon yesterday that she welcomed the creation of the new anti-corruption body headed by former Secretary General of Uganda National Teachers Union, Mr James Tweheyo.
However, later in the interview, she said the President’s public spat against her would not deter her from executing her mandate.
“Why would I resign? We serve the nation and if the Head of State alone is not happy and goes public, the rest are happy. In such a situation my work is to give information and the information is that though we are posted by the President, we report to parliament. Parliament is happy with my reports and they know our challenges,” Ms Mulyagonja said.
She admitted some of her staff are not credible but said those against whom complaints have been reported have been subjected to the internal investigation and disciplinary process.
The IGG said in the remaining two years of her contract, she will intensify fighting corruption, especially to recover stolen money and assets from corrupt government officials.
Justice Mulyagonja said she recovered Shs2b from government thieves in 2015/16 financial year and Shs1.6b in 2016/2017.
She said she also saved government from a loss of Shs76b by launching investigations into reported corruption cases over the same period.
The IGG pledged technical support to the new anti-corruption unit if necessary.
She said its appointment will relieve her of the tripartite burden of fighting corruption, being Ombudsman and implementing the Leadership Code.
Welcomes new unit
“I commend the President for the idea of coming up with his own unit. The Inspectorate of Government started as a unit in the office of the President and eventually became a constitutional body. But if the President is thinking we are not doing a lot, we are glad for the new team. We welcome them. If Mr Tweheyo needs our assistance, we shall give it to him,” she added.
The Secretary General of the ruling NRM party, Ms Justine Kasule Lumumba, however was skeptical on Mr Museveni’s creation of a new anti-corruption unit.
She said the President should strengthen the IGG office by allocating it more funding instead of creating a parallel unit to fight corruption.
Ms Lumumba was addressing journalists at the party headquarters in Kampala yesterday.
She said as the secretary general of the ruling party, she has the mandate to say no to whatever she deems is not being done right in government.
“The President can create that unit against corruption but he still needs to strengthen the IGG because it is the one with powers to prosecute corrupt officials. If it is an issue with the law, let it be amended and if it is an issue with the personnel, let the President appoint others because there are many Ugandans willing to fight corruption in this country,” Ms Lumumba said.
She also warned that the President’s creation of parallel units to the established offices will render the official government ministries, departments and agencies irrelevant.
“If every ministry will have an alternative unit in State House, will he then close the ministries? Personally, the IGG is doing a good work and I think they have challenges that need to be addressed. The President should hear her out. I do not support the President putting up a parallel structure because it will hinder her work,” Ms Lumumba said.
She also wondered whether the three officials appointed by the President to fight corruption through his office had been vetted by any competent authority established by law for that purpose.
When asked about her key achievements since she assumed office in 2012, Ms Mulyagonja said despite the meagre budget allocation of only Shs45b annually, in 2015/16 and 2016/17) her office secured 74 convictions of the 202 cases prosecuted in in court.
She said in 2015/16, her office completed investigation of 2215 cases and 3079 cases in 2016/17. She said among top government officials she has investigated is former Works and Transport Minister Abraham Byandala and his co-accused in the Mukono-Katosi road scam.
She however said her office has failed to investigate or arrest corrupt political leaders and ministers because they do not sign anywhere while receiving bribes. She said it’s their subordinates who end being caught in the scam.
Jacob Oboth (West Budama South, Ind): “The President has not been advised well because corruption has taken a new twist in this country. The only challenge we have seen with the Inspectorate is inadequate funding. The President should equip the Office of the IGG to enable her do her work, the new unit will not do much.”
Fred Mwesigye (Nyabushozi, NRM): “The President as the fountain of honour has the prerogative to create any Unit [of government], but whereas I support the creation of that unit, I appeal to the President and the government to reinforce the IGG such that those gaps are closed.”
Anna Adeke Ebaju (National Youth MP,Ind): “First of all, the IGG is underfunded. The President has been complaining about duplicated institutions and he is at the same time creating others. The office of the IGG is constitutionally instituted and the Inspectorate cannot just be rendered useless by creating a unit composed of unqualified people.”
Margaret Muhanga (Burahya, NRM): “Corruption has eaten up our moral fabric; people are corrupt and with impunity. I hope the new unit works, but I do not have faith in it. You cannot send a leopard to watch over goats.”