By Muhereza Amon
There is saying that goes the days of a thief are always 40, in Uganda to corrupt officials the days for the thugs or corrupt officials are numbered after Cabinet approved the tenets of the Leadership Code (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
According to the information the homeland newspaper obtained from the cabinet memoranda of a meeting held on Monday 28th September 2020 at State House Entebbe, the decisions were taken and Cabinet approved the bill for effective operationalization of the Leadership Code Tribunal, to adjudicate cases of breach of the Leadership Code of Conduct including;
“Imposing of sanctions and penalties on Leaders and Public Officers who breach the Code, hence ensuring compliance. Permit Government to recover illicitly acquired assets, since one of the penalties to be imposed by the Tribunal is confiscation of illicitly acquired assets’’, reads in part a statement from the Cabinet.
The bill will also see Increase levels of Service Delivery, and subsequently improve the public confidence in Government’s ability to fight corruption.
Uganda has developed a robust and comprehensive legal framework for the purposes of fighting corruption and recovering stolen assets. Criminal charges for corrupt practices in both the private and public field is provided for by the Anti-Corruption Act of 2009.
The Anti-Corruption Act criminalizes various acts, including embezzlement, causing financial loss, abuse of office, fraud, bribery, influence peddling and nepotism.
The law allows for forfeiture or permanent deprivation of corrupt proceeds by order of court after a conviction, or where a person charged with an offence has died or absconds.
Additionally, the Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Uganda Public Service of 2005 and the Leadership Code Act of 2002 regulate certain conduct, such as conflict of interest and receiving gifts.
The Leadership Code Act requires public servants to declare their assets every two years. According to Law, the Inspectorate of Government is responsible for the implementation of the Leadership Code and has powers to require confiscation of property after it is found that a leader has breached the Code.
Corrupt proceeds may be confiscated via different ways, including civil action, criminal forfeiture, administrative forfeiture and civil forfeiture.
Pursuant to the award of confiscation orders in court, assets that have been confiscated must be transferred to a government fund or trust. Where assets are in a foreign jurisdiction, they will vest in a national confiscation fund. An affected state will have to request another state to return assets to their former owners in other jurisdictions.
Anti-corruption activists argue that the current efforts aimed at amending the Anti-Corruption Act and introducing comprehensive legislation on recovery of proceeds, including the Anti-Corruption (Amendment) Bill of 2013, and the Recovery of Proceeds of Corruption Bill of 2013,are praiseworthy efforts but need to take into account the pertinent gaps, mentioned in Leadership Code Act of 2002 and the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2013 in order to build an effective civil forfeiture and asset recovery legal regime.
It should be noted that although both the Anti-Corruption Act and the Anti-Money Laundering Act allow for civil recovery of assets, they do so only by implication. Further, the asset recovery provisions contained in both Acts do not support civil recovery of corruptly acquired assets or asset recovery adequately. Moreover, civil forfeiture can apply only in cases of death or flight.
It should also be noted Globally, The International Centre for Asset Recovery established in 2006 by the Switzerland based Basel Institute on Governance help countries trace and repatriate corruption proceeds hidden in foreign jurisdictions.
Its activities are grounded in the 2005 United Nations Convention against Corruption that protected recovery and return to stolen assets as a basic principle of international public law.
In 2018, Transparency International ranked Uganda as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, below Kenya, Mauritania and Nigeria.
Addressing stakeholders early this year at St. Michael International School, Wakiso district, the head of State House’s anti-corruption unit, Col Edith Nakalema revealed that Uganda loses sh2trillion per year to graft.
Corruption in Uganda is stern, well-known, cuts across many sectors, and is regularly debated and discussed in the media. Activists say such corruption levels undermine human rights in multiple ways and are direct defiance of the rule of law and accountability.
Last year President Museveni led a large group of people in a three-and-a-half-kilometer anti-corruption campaign walk from Constitutional Square in the city center to Kololo, an indication of a high level of commitment and visibility in the fight against corruption in Uganda.
According to United Nations development programme [UNDP] Fighting Corruption
Corruption undermines human development. It diverts public resources away from the provision of essential services. It increases inequality and hinders national and local economic development by distorting markets for goods and services. It corrodes rule of law and destroys public trust in governments and leaders.
The financial and economic costs of corruption are enormous: US$1 trillion are paid in bribes per year (The World Bank Institute) and there were US$1.8 trillion in illicit financial flows from Africa between 1970 and 2008 (Global Financial Integrity, 2010).
The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the first legally binding instrument against corruption. As of 12 July 2017, UNCAC has 182 State Parties.