I have heard many times on radio the hullabaloo of having more laws enacted especially against corruption. Granted, 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 rank among the best in Africa with the Global integrity report putting it at 90%.
Government has now tabled the Whistle Blowers Bill and the now Anti Corruption Act enacted in Parliament last month; are supposed to provide measures of safeguarding a person who discloses information against a public official on misconduct, corruption or malpractice in a public office. These Bills if enacted into law will further enforce the provisions of 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 and strengthen the legal framework on the fight against corruption in Uganda.
However for some reason whistleblowers are more endangered than suspected fraudsters! Clear previous recommendations to protect whistle blowers have either fallen on deaf ears or 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 this is a country where enforcement of any legislation depends on the mood of the implementer rather than the legal provisions!
A whistleblower is basically defined as a person who on his own free will makes a disclosure on corruption, misconduct, misbehaviour, or maladministration, abuse of office and or criminal offence by a public official, or agent, or body or private sector, to a person or agency capable of investigating the compliant and facilitating the remedies of the wrong doing. Ask Kakwemire Athanasias 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 appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and reasonable grounds to the competent authorities and any facts or acts of corruption.
Article 5(6) of the African Union Convention on Prevention and Combating Corruption 2003 also provides that State parties undertake to adopt measures that ensure that citizens report instances of corruption without fear of consequent reprisals.
The 1995 Constitution as amended provides for Accountability in its National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, under Part XXVI. It provides inter alia 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 2005 (ATIA) is in force and one of its purposes is to protect persons disclosing evidence of contravention of the law, maladministration or corruption in government bodies. Section 44 protects a person who releases information on wrongdoing or information that would lead to a serious threat to health, or safety or the environment. The regulatory and institutional framework of this Act as provided is still ‘hot air’ to date.
Whistle Blower legislation indeed will be another tool to expose and combat corruption and to strengthen the legal framework against corruption in Uganda. But what Government needs is a mechanism that would encourage a person to disclose in public interest corruption and to play a more active role in the fight against corruption through enforcement. The bill will seek to protect whistleblowers and witnesses in corruption cases from reprisals, dismissal, harassment, victimization by the accused persons or institutions but our history shows the opposite. What we need therefore is more of the will than words!