Monday, July 20, 2009

Justice Faith Mwondha’s fate: Has corruption won...

Alfred Nyongesa Wandera


As the Constitutional Court in its ruling on Friday left the former ombudsman of government, Faith Mwondha, with two options - either go for parliamentary vetting or decline re-appointment, new life was breathed into the debate on whether the fight against corruption in Uganda will proceed at the pace and vigour she had brought to the office.

The National Coordinator for Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda, Jasper Tumuhimbise, contends that the fight against corruption in the country ought not be personalised but rather institutionalised.

“It can’t be a person fighting others. The Inspectorate of Government is an institution that does investigations and writes a report that is supposed to be implemented by the state headed by the appointing authority (President Museveni),” Mr Tumuhimbise told Sunday Monitor in a telephone interview on Friday.

He says he considers Parliament a constitutional institution and that even if the holder of the office of Inspector General of Government has a problem with corrupt individuals vetting him or her, it is still mandatory to vetted by the House.

“But the appointing authority should look for a clear-headed person and not dillydally to implement the recommendations of the IGG like it happened in the Temangalo saga. The President never acted because the top people in his government who are his right-men were involved. That should never be allowed to repeat in Uganda,” Mr Tumuhimbise added.

Mr Tumuhimbise’s comments will fly over fears that the clique of the corrupt that Judge Faith Mwondha roped in members of Parliament, which she once described as the ‘council of the wicked’ have triumphed in this contest. Judge Mwondha who is largely expected to resume her duties as a High Court judge had refused to appear for re-vetting by Parliament’s Appointments Committee, saying she would not get a fair hearing and that in any case it was not necessary.

That fear may be tempered by anti-corruption boss’ confidence that if the acting ombudsman, Raphael Baku is granted free operating space he will deliver.

However, Ethics Minister James Nsaba Buturo, who once found himself on the wrong side of Judge Mwondha’s for allegedly misappropriating Shs20 million meant for Mega FM when he was holding the information ministry docket, told this reporter that the Inspectorate of Government can only get stronger.

“The institution now has more resources like new vehicles, more budgetary allocation, and new recruitment of staff that will obviously impact positively on their work. The Constitution also provides for appointment of two deputies to the IGG and this will reduce the piling of work load on the IGG and their appointment will come at the right time,” Dr Buturo said.

But Conservative Party president and former MP for Rubaga South constituency Ken Lukyamuzi who was thrown out of the 2006 parliamentary race by then IGG Mwondha for failure to declare his wealth in accordance with the Leadership Code Act, said the court ruling is a demonstration that she does not respect the Constitution.

“She has been acting unconstitutionally to people including Lukyamuzi. It is a demonstration to the state that my petition at the Supreme Court should be given a quick hearing and disposed of. If it is delayed, it will negatively impact on the Leadership Code Act and will show that the unconstitutional act of Mwondha is valid,” Mr Lukyamuzi whose constitutional petition in Supreme Court has dragged for two years due to lack of quorum on that court’s bench.

Asked if Judge Mwondha’s departure will impact negatively on anti-graft fight, Mr Lukyamuzi said: “She has been tough sometimes but subjectively and has caused big financial losses to the tax payer as most of the cases that come up as a result of her recommendation have been lost in court.”

Mr Lukyamuzi concurred with Mr Tumuhimbise that Mr Baku can hold the mantle of IGG if he cooperates with other diverse bodies related to fighting corruption.
Mr Baku on Friday told Sunday Monitor in a telephone interview that he is not ready to indulge in speculation.

“I am doing my work as required by the Constitution and not ready to debate on assumptions,” Mr Baku said but declined to comment on whether he feels relieved that the controversy surrounding the IGG’s office is now over.

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