Crusade against Corruption

She is a woman with a mission. Much to the chagrin of detractors, Justice Faith Elizabeth Kalikwani Mwondha, Inspector General of Government (IGG), Uganda, has transformed her office from a mere symbol of authority to a department that means business.

Mwondha, a High Court judge appointed by President Yoweri Museveni, has vowed to fight corruption, saying her appointment was 'divine'. "The job God gave me is by divine assignment. I am a weapon not just the woman Faith, because the One in me is bigger," Mwondha, 54, told a congregation at Family Faith Church at Kabusu in Rubaga, Kampala. 

Considered a street fighter, who combines intellect with combative attitude, Mwondha has taken bold steps to bring an end to the corruption prevalent in government departments. In May, she prosecuted three ministers, including Major General Jim Muhwezi over the disappearance of $7 million from the GAVI fund and stirred up the entire cabinet, leaving few feeling safe.

Then she uncovered the mess in the National Social Security Fund in which $8 million had disappeared. As a result of her efforts, Bakoko Bakoru, Minister of Gender and Social Affairs, is now a fugitive.

Known to be forthright and forceful, she has confronted Attorney General 
Khiddu Makubuya, demanding that Dr Nsaba Buturo, Minister of Ethics and Integrity, return the money he had diverted.

Corruption in Uganda has been a mystery that Mwondha is painstakingly trying to unravel to get to the culprits. She strongly feels the need to restore integrity in the public sector and prevent Uganda from becoming a rogue state.

Interestingly, the soft-spoken Mwondha gives no inkling through her demeanour that her career as a judicial officer and politician has moulded her into someone who attacks her prey ruthlessly.

When the Attorney General criticised her action in prosecuting the Minister of Labour and top officials of the National Social Security Fund for a $4 million loss saying that it was a cost to the state, she hit back describing his remarks as "submissions of a defence lawyer".

In her course of work, she has realised that pragmatism and realism are important in fighting corruption and that a post-modern approach of following legal recourse may not only be inadequate but, sometimes, dangerous.

This Pentecostal-Christian officer has even criticised some of her fellow lawyers of being gangsters who idolise money and twist laws to favour culprits. "Most of the problems in the fight against corruption are due to the legal profession insisting on legal answers for everything including [what is] evil," she said, adding, "the legal profession is used by the rich to get richer by embezzling public funds in the hope that they will manipulate the law."

The IGG also stood up to Major General Kahinda Otafiire, a minister in the local government, for favouring crooks. In turn, she was called names, and accused of being a drunkard despite being a teetotaller.

Mwondha has symbolised hope for a despondent public that had given up hope that Museveni would ever prosecute government officials given that the government is dominated by his kin and kith. "If Museveni is serious, he should arrest his brother for causing a $6 million loss in a botched helicopter deal," says Miria Matembe, a women's activist and a former minister of integrity.

Mwondha's vigorous pursuit is also backed by the fact that international donors have provided $80 million and investigators to IGG for high profile cases and to avert a hopeless situation largely due to nepotism and sectarianism.

Despite the numerous commissions of inquiries into corruption, no high ranking officer has been taken to court, noted a United Nations (UN) country report on Uganda.

The UN has spent $6.5 million since 2001 to strengthen anti-corruption agencies, encourage good governance and push anti-poverty programmes. According to the UN, Uganda remains in the category of 60 countries that are afflicted by corruption.

A member of the public accounts committee of Parliament, Sebuliba Mutumba, stated that only 40 per cent of the money is efficiently utilised - the rest is either lost through corruption, waste and duplication, rendering the budget-making process a useless exercise.

Nevertheless, the UN is optimistic that corruption can be minimised and points to recent figures that show a decline of overt bribery cases: from 63 to 46 per cent in the police force; from 40 to 31 per cent in the Uganda Revenue Authority and from 50 to 29 per cent in the Magistrates between 1998 and 2003.

While the international community has cheered Mwondha's actions, her challenge is a sceptical and enigmatic public, some of whom feel that Mwondha's actions stem from her need to position herself for an international job, perhaps in the UN, now that her contract is about to end.

Yet, she is not someone who gives up easily. Mwondha says, "I have the courage to do a divine assignment. I have to evoke the law without fear or favour."  


More by :  Crespo Sebunya

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