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Public servants to declare cash at hand

Kampala– Starting March next year, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) will demand civil servants and politicians to disclose their cash at hand when declaring their wealth to the ombudsman as required by the amended Leadership Code Act 2017.

Speaking at the workshop on the Act yesterday, Mr Amos Baguma, an Inspectorate officer, said most public servants and politicians conceal their cash at home but declare their bank accounts that have peanuts.

The new rules came up following the amendment of the Act.

“We have realised that several public servants and leaders do not declare their actual amount of money. We have now introduced a requirement to declare your cash at hand.

People are keeping their money at home, offices and in ceilings. We shall demand one to declare cash starting from Shs5m and above,” Mr Baguma said.

In 2010, Mr Damian Akankwasa, the then National Forestry Authority (NFA)’s executive director, caused a storm when he accused his estranged wife, Juliet Akankwasa, of stealing his Shs900m from their home.

Stand-off
In April, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) wrote to banks demanding that they disclose information on customer accounts.

However, this move was vehemently castigated by banks, politicians and human rights agencies, saying it was an infringement on people’s privacy.
President Museveni later stopped URA from proceeding to obtain confidential bank details of customers.

Yesterday’s workshop, organised by the IGG, was presided over by the Ethics minister, Fr Simon Lokodo.

Asked how the directive for declaration of cash at hand by public officials will be implemented since financial details are regarded as private information, Mr Baguma said the IGG management is still deliberating how to enforce the regulation.

“We shall come up with the convenient way of making people declare their cash at hand. But some of the ways are through declaring bank details of leaders by themselves, details of jointly held businesses and accounts both at local and international level,” Mr Baguma said.

Other requirements
Under the new regulation, leaders will also declare vehicles, businesses, investments in securities that are jointly owned.

They will also declare any personal assets or assets where the respective leader has interest, all liabilities that were incurred by the leader personally or guaranteed by him or her and payable by the leaders on their behalf or on behalf of another person.

“The number of institutions we are targeting has increased to 300 and we are expecting more than 26,000 declarations from public servants and elected leaders across the country,” Mr Baguma said.

Previously, leaders have been required to declare land, buildings, farms and ranches in and outside Uganda, vehicles, businesses and other commercial investments that were not jointly owned.

The IGG, Justice Irene Mulyagonja, said her efforts to enforce the Act is being hampered by lack of a tribunal to force defiant or non–compliant leaders to declare their wealth.

The Act came into force in July 2002 and was amended in June 2017 mainly to give effect to Article 235a of the Constitution by providing for the establishment, composition, jurisdiction and functions of the Leadership Code Tribunal and to strengthen the enforcement of the Act.

“Article 235a provides for a Leadership Code Tribunal to hear and determine all breaches and offences under the Code. The constitution of the tribunal is equally delaying. I wish to request you [Fr Lokodo] as our link to the executive to take up this to conclusion,” Justice Mulyagonja said.

She said her Inspectorate is stuck with cases of civil servants and leaders who have refused to declare their wealth.

Ms Mulyagonja said the defaulters include five top government officials she did not name. Such people, she said, can be compelled to declare their wealth only if the Leadership Code Tribunal is appointed.

The director for legal affairs at the Inspectorate, Ms Sarah Birungi, said Section 19a of the Act provides for the functions of the tribunal to include receiving, examining and adjudicating any breach of the Code referred to it by the Inspectorate; making a decision on any matter referred to it by the Inspectorate and submit it to the authorised person and the Inspectorate.

Challenges 
Challenges to implementation of the new rules include inadequate coverage of Internet services, especially upcountry, unreliable Internet services, power outages and low literacy levels.

Some leaders such as councillors, Local Council chairpersons and their deputies are not conversant with the English language and are computer illiterate.

Other challenges are lack of funds and adequate manpower to carry out sensitisation about online systems.

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