Lack of political will failing the fight against corruption, says Soroti leaders

SOROTI – Lack of political will among leaders and moral decadence have been singled out as one the major obstacles in the fight against corruption.

These were sentiments raised during a meeting between the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Hon Rose Lilly Akello who doubles as the Woman Member of Parliament for Karenga District, local leaders and members of the civil society of Soroti district and Soroti City.

Benson Ekuwe Ocen, the Country Executive Director of Public Affairs Center (PAC) Uganda blames continued corruption tendencies in Uganda to government’s failure to close legal loopholes.

He claims that the government has failed to hold high-ranking officials accountable for theft of public funds, despite its stated commitment to eradicating corruption.

Ekuwe points out that lack of political will has crippled Uganda’s anti-corruption institutions, undermining their efforts through political interference, underfunding, harassment and threats.

According to him, lack of a clear system to protect witnesses and to insulate prosecutors from bribery and intimidation means that anti-corruption institutions in Uganda have ended up focusing on low-level corruption involving small sums of money, while the “big fish” have continued to accumulate wealth and power.

Ekuwe further said, since President Museveni took office in 1986, despite recurrent corruption scandals; only one minister has ever been convicted of a corruption-related offense, a verdict that was overturned on appeal just after the president publicly offered to pay the defendant’s legal costs.

He argues that political leaders beginning with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni must walk the talk in the fight against corruption and reform policies that will help champion a move towards zero corruption tolerance in public offices across the country.

“We shall continue singing about corruption in this country, if those in authority do not stop shielding individuals implicated in corruption scandals,” says Ekuwe.

Ekuwe adds that most of the people in authority only mind about their personal gains at the expense of the local man who is a taxpayer expecting good, effective and efficient service delivery in all sectors in return for his taxes but in vain.

Meanwhile, the controversial state mobiliser for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM]) party for Teso sub-region Teddy Acham blamed the police and the Office of the Inspector General of Government (IGG) over delayed investigations of corruption cases.

She states that police are so quick to conclude investigations of other cases but when it comes to corruption investigations, it takes years without being concluded and the culprits are always released.

According to Acham, it’s disheartening for the police and the IGG to set corruption culprits free claiming that they are being investigated.

“I don’t understand why most of these culprits are often left unpunished and investigations of technical officers have often been delayed and in most cases, they are set free without any prosecution,” she wondered.

Acham cites an incident in which 14 officers of Soroti City accused of allegedly stealing over 140 cartons of government hoes meant for the rural peasants were set free without being arraigned in court to answer charges of theft of government property in which they are being accused off.

In between June and July this year, more than 140 cartons of hoes donated by the government through the Ministry of Agriculture to the locals went missing from Soroti City stores under the custody of police. Some City officers were arrested but they were released after spending few days in police cells and the cases seems to have died a natural death,” adds Acham.

Paul Omer, the Mayor of Soroti City East Division said, the issue of those implicated in corruption scandals walking escort free has escalated corruption cases in Uganda.

“The weakness in government structures that often leave the culprits unpunished even when they are proven guilty, has encouraged many greedy individuals to engage in corruption which has greatly affected development of our country Uganda called the “Pearl of Africa”.

Meanwhile, the East Kyoga regional police spokesperson SP Gregory Oscar Ageca, clarified that by law, police are not allowed to detain a suspect beyond 48 hours, a reason they release suspects not only those accused of corruption but other crimes as well as investigations continue.

He explains that if the police are not yet able to charge the suspect within the 48 hours, the law mandates them to release a suspect on bond as investigations into the matter continue.

The regional police spokesperson Oscar Gregory Ageca challenged the public to ensure that cases of corruption are often reported to police for redress other than lamenting in silence.

“Some people complain in silence instead of reporting matters of corruption to police or to the IGG’s office.”

Godfrey Mubiru, the Deputy head in the office of the IGG in Soroti said, the delays in the investigations of corruption cases is not only in Teso but it cuts across the country.

He further clarified that investigations of corruption cases often delay because of lack of credible evidence and information to prosecute the suspects.

According to Mubiru, for a person to be charged over corruption, the plaintiff must provide concrete evidence against that person short of that, IGG can’t do much and that is the reason some of those alleged to have been engaged in corruption are released.

The State Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Hon Rose Lilly Akello acknowledged that lack of political will is hindering a fight against corruption and reiterated governments’ commitment to fight the vice which has affected the economic development of Uganda.

However, she tasked the police and office of the IGG to ensure that corruption cases are investigated comprehensively and the culprits are brought to book.

“We should not sit and watch people suffering, I want to request the investigating arms of the government to collaborate and ensure that we prosecute all perpetrators of corruption in courts of law,” the minister said.

Hon Rose Lilly Akello cited corruption as some of the main immoral acts that have continued to erode Uganda’s ethical values, thus endangering the fabric of the society, calling on parents to instill acceptable morals into their children at a tender age.

Despite the existence of agencies like Inspectorate of Government (IGG), the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), the Directorate of Ethics and Integrity (DEI), the Anticorruption Court and the State House Anti-Corruption Unit among others, which are established by government to fight corruption, the vice remains a monster that has dented the image of Uganda.

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