The Inspector General of Government has said Ministry of Finance will be held liable for properties of departed Asian if they don’t take responsibility and restrain public officials from taking over asserts.
Justice Irene Mulyagonja in an interview with Eagle Online on Thursday said she had on several occasions written to the Minister of Finance to take charge and make sure asserts aren’t stolen by public officials.
“Let me give the history of property custodian board. We receive so many matters about that board but I don’t know how many letters that I have written to the ministers of finance asking them to do something about those assets that are laying all over the place and which are being pilfered and stolen by fraudulent people, I have never received any response”. Justice Mulyagonja said.
She added “I don’t want to engage investigations in the matter of departed Asian property because remedies can only be given by ministers or by the courts of law. So it is pointless to carry out investigations and spend the little resources that we have, it is important to spend resources when there will be a remedy got”
She said they (IGG) have tried prosecuting people over that matter, but have a prosecution that went to court last year of someone called Kalangwa with members of Jinja district land board however, the person ran to Constitutional Court and got orders stopping IGG so that prosecution is still pending.
“We wasted our resources, carried out investigations for about one year but we were unable to prosecute them. Is it worthy to carry out investigations and a decision be made of what to do with those properties instead of leaving them to fraudulent people who acquire them”.
In response to Justice Mulyagonja’s concerns, Ministry of Finance Spokesperson, Jim Mugunga said he shares the IGG’s concern and that there is a good working relationship between her office and Ministry of Finance but the best placed sector to answer her was the department of departed Asian Custodian Board.
“I believe if there was any communication, it is between Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi or the minister who would have directed it to the board and it is the board best suited to answer” Mugunga said.
Below is full interview with Justice Mulyagonja
What has been your performance in the recent past?
The figures for complaints received in 2015/16 are 2172 complaints.
Of the 2172 complaints we investigated 2215 but that include the complaints that were received in the previous year.
In 2016/17, we investigated and completed 2318 complaints. When we look at complaints coming in, we notice that between 2015/16 and 2016/17 they increased by almost 1000 and to us that represents an improvement in the credibility in office so it is not that we don’t receive complaints and that people do not bring complaints rather our short coming is not able to investigate all complaints that are brought before the inspectorate.
You promised to catch big fish in terms of corruption of all the figures that you have given to us, how many are in the availed figures.
We have a case that took us one and half years to investigate the case on Mukono –Katosi road, we are prosecuting seven people, five of those people we consider them as big fish they are on the level of accounting officer, former minister and senior official who were heads of departments, for us those are big fish.
As the press I understand that you want us to prosecute politicians, but the problem with politicians is that when they take bribes they don’t sign so to have them convicted you must have their subordinates to testify against them.
How transparent are your investigations.
You can never have a transparent investigation, because you are not supposed to reveal information while we are investigating. And we do not reveal steps taken in investigations because culprits can hide information.
There are claims that there is a way you have protected Justine Bagyenda
Verification is an internal process. I don’t know why you want us to reveal ongoing verification of Bagyenda because we don’t reveal any information about any person.
We have done verification on all accounting offers in this financial year say Jenifer Musisi, Allen Kagina, Richard Byarugaba, why do you want to reveal one of Bagyenda? yet I have not revealed the one of Byarugaba why should I discriminate against her.
If your concern is the allegations that that she engaged in illicit enrichment, illicit enrichment is an offence and is provided for by the anti-corruption act. If Madam Bagyenda illicitly acquired wealth, you will see us using the same act as we used it to Geoffrey Kazinda. When we take people to court for illicit enrichment we don’t reveal reports till we are ready to take people to court.
Are you aware that your officers take bribe?
Yes I am aware that is why there is an information and internal inspection unit headed by a senior officer supervised by me personally. That unit investigates officers of the inspectorate against whom complaints are made and I think you are a ware and you have seen us taking cases to court and have people convicted taken to Luzira prison and serve their sentences.
When I had just come here, there was an officer who was arrested taking a bribe. He was prosecuted convicted, served his sentence and was dismissed.
There was another offer who was suspected of taking a bribe. She was arrested with her husband and another party they were colluding with. She was prosecuted and she was acquitted and we have appealed against the acquittal.
We are aware that our staff are not clean. If the public is colluding with our officers and give them bribes there is no way we can trap them.
Aren’t you over whelmed by multiplication of agencies say when you are investigating a certain witness police calls them for their own investigations at Kabuli?
We have an agreement as anti-corruption agencies that where an agency is investigating the matter, the other does not. That is why you see like when complaints about procurement matters gone bad, the inspectorate doesn’t immediately start investigations. We turn them over to procurement and public assents disposal committee. If it is a question of audit, we don’t understand matters of audit, and we turn them to auditor general.
But there is also an understanding with Uganda police which is a member of the inter-agency forum. (Inter-agency forum is an agency where ant-corruption bodies meet and discuss issues of corruption)
Three is an understanding that as members of the Inter-agency forum that if the police is investigating the matter, we don’t investigate it unless when we are investigating different matters. Right now there is an ongoing investigations about the loss of money and relief items in refugee camps, so we are jointly carrying out investigations by Uganda police and the inspectorate but again we assigned different aspects, police is investigating human rights violations and inspectorate is investigation the loss and misuse of relief items and fraudulent of those items. So the roles are distinct and we are not summoning witness at the same time.
What is being done to cartel this (corruption among government officials) from happening again?
The declaration of income and liabilities asserts is under leadership code act. The benchmark is you have to declare asserts, every two years declare what you have acquired so as we the inspectorate of government can verify. Sometimes we receive complaints about public officials and the property they own. So that calls us to carry out investigations for us to establish what they own.
We are interested in Bagyenda because some of us wrote about her and she is trying to go to police for protection.
Isn’t she entitled to own property, yes she is entitled so if we carry out verification and find out that the property is hers and commensurate to her earnings, our obligation is to give a report to Bagyenda and her employers so what you have to do to get that information is to approach any of the two.
Two years ago I had an interview with you and you told me that you will be following properties of people who have been convicted of faking a minister’s signature. How far have you gone?
Right now there is a prosecution going on about Mr Kazinda and it is about to be done. There one for Mr Senkeeto for him there are many asserts that we have put on caveats.
There are those where court has ordered them to refund monies. There are billions of things that have to be recovered from people who have been prosecuted over the years. We have hired auctioneers or bailiffs to look for property of people who have been convicted including the director for budget of parliament who was ordered to refund Shs800 million and is serving a sentence though he was bailed to appeal against the sentence.
There are many cases that are being investigated right now in respect in which we are restraining assets so for continuous prosecution.
If you prosecute someone and later is acquitted does it render the process worthless?
If they are acquitted, it does not render the process worthless, it shows that if a person is accused of corruption and we carry out investigations, where we feel that information is credible, we take them to court. But courts have their rules, if they find that there is something missing, they acquit them and that is the due process of the law.
But it has value that someone is convicted or acquitted, it serves value among public officials because it prevents impunity from taking place.
The case of backlog, you always refers us to lack of budget and under-staffing, how much budget do you need to fully execute your mandate.
This is an institution that is perceived as an anti- corruption agency but it takes charge of superintending of the leadership conduct that is the ethical aspect of behavior of public servants and it is the national ombudsman institution. Our neighbors Kenya and Tanzania have three institutions that do what we do in one institution.
In Uganda they are three institutions in one and we only see anti-corruption that is only talked about and the other preventive agencies are not heard.
We were laughing about the budget that is given to inspectorate when I was talking to managing director of NSSF Richard Byarugaba. He asked me what your budget is, I said Shs45 billion a year, and he laughed and said that is NSSF’s budget for one month.
Last year’s budget (2017/18) was Shs29 trillion, this year’s budget (2018/19) is Shs33 trillion and is still Shs45 billion at it is not all allocated to us.
Let’s institute offices in all districts in Uganda because right now we have 16 offices in Uganda for ant-corruption and the ombudsman. Do you know much they get? We give them five staff, to motor vehicle, two drivers and a budget of shs6million every month. That Shs6 million is supposed to be operational funds for 10 offices. Other offices are given Shs3 million.
Then what does the directorate of ethics led by Father Lokoda do?
His ministry is not an implementing agency. It is policy arm of government that deals with corruption, they don’t investigate nor implement. They deal with issues of maladministration; they don’t deal with public officials.
How have you handled the issues of departed Asian property custodian board?
Let me give the history of property custodian board. We receive so many matters about that board but I don’t know how many letters that I have written to the ministers of finance asking them to do something about those assets that are laying all over the place and which are being pilfered and stolen by fraudulent people, I have never received any response.
I don’t want to engage investigations in the matter of departed Asian property because remedies can only be given by ministers or by the courts of law. So it is pointless to carry out investigations and spend the little resources that we have, it is important to spend resources when there will be a remedy got.
We have tried prosecuting people over that matter, we have a prosecution that went to court last year of someone called Kalangwa with members of Jinja district land board however he ran to Constitutional Court and got orders stopping us so that prosecution is still pending. We wasted our resources, carried out investigations for about one year but we were unable to prosecute them. Is it worthy to carry out investigations and a decision be made of what to do with those properties instead of leaving them to fraudulent people who acquire them.
What is next after the president announcing a team of three to report to him directly?
We have facts how this institution works may be the president doesn’t know, we send reports every after six months as we are required by law.
First of all I want to commend his Excellency for the idea of having his own unit to investigate corruption why do I commend him? In ant-corruption we say the tone at the top has got to be right so if that is his way of expressing his tone, I appreciate him.
The inspectorate of government started as a unit in the office of the president after bush war so that is the history of the inspectorate. Eventually it became a constitutional body.
But if the president feels that we are not doing sufficient work, and feels he has a need to have a unit at his office to investigate corruption and bring complaints that people are not confident to report to us we are glad.
We have complaints that we cannot even investigate because they are too many, we have one ant-corruption agency, so if we have another one we happy to share experience.
In the republic of South Africa, special investigation unit, is under the office of the president and it is him to decide which matter is to be investigated.
So if it is under the office of the president then the big fish that hide behind the president can be got, and we promise that if it is set up, should there be need for us to work with them we shall fully corporate.
If we have another unit and it is well funded, it will relieve the burden of the tripartite institution that is give a budget of one institution. We are happy that we shall have this one other agency and we look forward to seeing good results.
We are sometimes victims of our own success, we send people for investigations and sometimes they don’t want to go because of lack of funds.
May be we are so thin on the ground that is why he created it to report and deal with cases.
Are you surprised to see that it is James Tweheyo that has been put on the anti-corruption unit that will be under the office of the president?
I don’t know Tweheyo and his antecedents, my appointing authority deemed it fit to appoint Mr. Tweheyo to investigate and receive complaints. The President has sources of information who must have carried out verifications before appointment. I don’t have any information against Mr. Tweheyo.
Isn’t there miscommunication between the office of IGG and the office of the president because he publically criticized you?
We have a legal mandate to execute, we were appointed by him, paid by government, supervised by Parliament and submit reports every after six months and for us we shall continue carry out our work. As I told you there is no absence of credibility as far as the inspectorate is concerned.
May be the president isn’t happy with the way you handle issues of bank of Uganda where you said you can arrest the Governor of bank of Uganda
Yes I can arrest him, I have the powers, and it is stipulated in law
How did you feel after president Museveni’s submissions, that IGG is not a credible institution?
I will not make a comment.
Are thieves in government zeroing on you?
As I said before I don’t know why the president chose that moment to make that pronouncement and I will no comment about it.
As I told you there is a lot of work in ant-corruption, if the president feels that we are not doing well enough and he needs another agency he has the prerogative, he can set it up, it can be funded and it can do the specialized work that he wants it to do.
How much do you recover from corrupt officials?
In total money saved as a result of IGG intervention in 2015/16 was Shs41 billion and 2016/17 was Shs36 billion.
Have you had situations were a public officer has refused to be arrested?
There is a man call Jolooba who refused to give us information and search warrant was issued and he was arrested and brought here. Some times when we issue warrant arrests, the came and give us information.
How have you handled the case of Frank Gashumba when CMI and police arrested him and they said he will be investigated by IGG’s office.
He is being investigated by police and no body reported that case of blackmail to this office but we take it serious. Recently an employee of Uganda Wildlife Authority who purported to write a letter signed by me and forged my signature; we found it out, investigated him, prosecuted and has been convicted.
Recently there was another letter written by a LCV to minister of local government, we are investigating it and shall we find him culpable we shall prosecute him. We take very serious when people forge documents.