By John Kabagambe
KAMPALA – Barely three years since President Museveni announced the creation of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (SH-ACU) headed by Col. Edith Nakalema, the indefatigable head of the unit’s name has become synonymous with the war on corruption.
Despite the existence of well-funded institutions such as the Inspector General of Government in the public arena, and other agencies with the mandate to check graft., especially in public offices, Col. Nakalema has in this short period become the face of the war on corruption, and that’s no mean achievement.
The endorsement, public confidence and acknowledgement by the regular folks (who are the majority of Ugandan voters and taxpayers) that Col. Nakalema’s SH-ACU is the place to go to, is no mean achievement, rather a testament to the fact that the public appreciates Col. Nakalema’s results-oriented approach that has seen the SH-ACU break the barriers that have often served as a hindrance to the successful prosecution of corruption cases.
For Col. Nakalema, rather than get bogged down by bureaucracy, she found a way around it. Cases that often previously “got lost” during investigations, were fast-tracked in the criminal justice system like never before. Nakalema got the hitherto slow-moving criminal justice locomotive engine bustling with energy to full speed, thus restoring public confidence in the war on corruption and becoming its authentic face.
Suddenly, an overwhelming majority of Ugandans (more than what the capacity of the SH-ACU could handle) started flocking to Col. Nakalema. In the midst of other agencies, that’s quite telling. However, just in case you are wondering why that is significant, take a moment to imagine the colossal sums of money (in hundreds of billions) that the country loses annually through squander and embezzlement of public funds; just how much can the hundreds of billions do to develop the much needed infrastructural development where there is none or where the country needs to upgrade? Just how does a poor country attain middle-income status and exceeds expectations, if a significant amount of the revenue generated, the grants and donations and borrowed money are stolen and squandered? In circumstances of rampant fraud, grand-scale corruption and poor service delivery, how does a country develop?
The cancer of corruption eats at the very core of a country’s social-economic fabric and the real war on corruption needs to be fought with a “take no prisoners attitude” that Nakalema has (albeit which has been the missing link) to save the country from suffering stunted economic growth and haemorrhage as a result of waste, plunder and squander of public funds.
Therefore restoring public confidence to report corruption, to blow the whistle on bribery and poor civil service delivery (as Nakalema has done) is key in reducing, lessening and dealing a blow to corruption, saving public money and ensuring it’s channelled to better use where it can make a meaningful impact.
The drawback is that, as more people flock to Nakalema’s SH-ACU to report corruption-related cases, she needs a better capacity to absorb the many cases. In this case, better capacity takes the form of a bigger budgetary allocation to efficiently equip and run the SH-ACU, recruit more competent personnel with the capacity to rapidly respond to any corruption query in any part of Uganda to investigate corruption cases, as well as network with other agencies in the criminal justice system, so as to guarantee successful prosecution of corruption cases.