For over a month, the Parliamentary Presidential Affairs Committee, the State House Anti-corruption Unit, and the Police Criminal Investigation Department-CID have been investigating senior government officials over claims that they allocated themselves iron sheets that were meant for Karamoja.
When they appeared before the Committee, the ministers and MPs implicated in the saga said they are innocent because the iron sheets were given to them without asking by the senior Karamoja minister Mary Kitutu. The Speaker of Parliament Anita Annet Among who also admitted to receiving the iron sheets said Kitutu must carry her cross for gifting them with iron sheets that they didn’t ask for.
In his letter to Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja who also happens to have been among those who allocated themselves the iron sheets, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni describes the appropriation or misappropriation as a corruption bonanza which he vowed to punish both legally and politically.
But as the country awaits to see what the President’s action is going to be, we looked at the law that relates to gifts that people holding public office receive.
From the outset however, many right thinking members of society find it far fetched for any public servant/ minister to claim that they believed the minister for Karamoja affairs was giving them a gift of iron sheets. Ordinarily, an (agent of the) employer can give a reward for a job well done; a bonus for performing and delivering beyond set targets or motivational hampers for festive occasions.
The Karamoja minister is not in position to reward the Speaker of Parliament, a Prime Minister, the First Deputy Prime Minister or any minister for that matter. The implicated ministers need to come up with a more sane excuse than calling the iron sheets gifts.
But if indeed, it’s true that the iron sheets were actually gifts from the minister of Karamoja Mary Goretti Kitutu, the question would then be, did these leaders follow the law that relates to gifts? The Leadership Code Act defines benefits that public officials receive that must be declared to the Inspector General of Government-IGG.
The Act defines a benefit as; “any gift, payment, subscription, advance, loan, commission, forbearing, gratuity or favour whether monetary or in kind, rendering services, or deposit of money or anything of value including food, lodging, transportation or entertainment or reimbursement.”
The Act in Section 10 (1) states that a gift or donation to a leader on any public or ceremonial occasion, or commission to a leader on any transaction shall be treated as a gift or donation or commission to the Government or institution represented by the leader and shall be declared to the Inspector-General of Government; although the government or the institution shall keep an inventory of any such gifts.
However, the Act allows a leader to accept a personal gift or donation from a relative or personal friend to such occasion as is recognized by custom. However, the Act places a monetary value of five currency points [100,000 Shillings] for such gifts as souvenirs and ornaments.
“Where a leader receives any gifts or other benefits of a value of ten currency points or above from anyone source in a twelve consecutive months period, the leader shall disclose that gift or benefit to the Inspector General,” the Act reads in Section 10 (4).
After the declaration of the physical gifts, they are supposed to be disposed of in accordance with the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act while the monetary gifts are supposed to be deposited in the consolidated Fund.
The Act further states that any leader who fails to declare the gifts of whatever nature violates the leadership code. The Act states that those who violate the Leadership Code in relation to gifts either forfeit the benefit equivalent to the gift, hospitality or benefit, to the government are warned in writing; or are dismissed. But do leaders actually declare the gifts they get?
According to Ali Munira, the spokesperson of the IGG, some do, but the majority don’t. “Some leaders do declare their gifts but the compliance level is not very high because some of them don’t know. That’s the problem but we are making efforts to sensitize them about this law,” Ali said.
Ever since the Leadership Code Act was enacted in 2002, there are very few known cases of leaders who have been held liable for violating it. The most known case which was actually overturned by the court was that of former Lubaga South MP John Ken Lukyamuzi who was stopped from contesting his seat in 2006 after he failed to declare his wealth.