KAMPALA — Acting under Article 99 (4) of the Constitution, President Museveni created the State House Anti-corruption Unit; the unit would later work in liaison with the Criminal Investigations Directorate of the Uganda Police.
And in December 2018, Mr Museveni appointed Col. Edith Nakalema to head the then newly formed State House Anti-corruption unit.
And today, the unit has become a one-stop-centre specialised office under State House whose function is to receive corruption information from Ugandan citizens over a secure and confidential online platform.
Across the country now, the name Col. Nakalema has become a term used frequently by government officials, civil society organizations, RDCs/RCCs, donor agencies and private individuals.
In fact, the name Col. Nakalema is synonymous with anti-corruption.
Now, after two years of working at the helm of the State house anti-corruption Unit, many have come to the believe that the president made a good choice to fight corruption in the country.
The SH-ACU has sent the corrupt scampering for cover, it has torn through the steel veils of the hitherto untouchables, and has given the President unprecedented authority and credence to talk about ending corruption.
Uganda’s widespread corruption is highlighted in the country’s poor ranking, he country just slipped in corruption ranking by five places from the 137th position in 2019 to 142nd position in the 2020, out of 180 countries that were ranked by Transparency International Corruption Index report.
It is very clear across the country that pernicious effects of corruption stretch from substandard public services through elections and the judiciary to stunted economic development.
The State house Anti Corruption Unit was faced with a tight resource environment within which to maneuver, Col. Nakalema sought the need to carefully identify priorities that would facilitate a quantum leap of fighting corruption.
She equipped the unit with a telephone and text messaging platforms that enable whistle blowers to pass on information regarding corruption anonymously with the official Handle of the Anti-Corruption Unit @Statehouse, Call 0800202500 Whatsapp /SMS 0778202500 that eased work.
According to information available, using these initiatives/ platforms, Col. Nakalema’s office received a total of over 8000 corruption cases.
Although Col. Nakalema in the beginning felt the heat of the job, which put her on a collision path with other graft busting agencies like the inspectorate of government, she has since stolen the national spotlight, seen mostly on-camera raiding district offices around the country and, arresting suspected corrupt officials.
And whereas by 2019, the unit was still on the drawing board, today, just two years down the road, the state house anti-corruption unit is a reality and a stellar example of Col. Nakalema’s work across the country.
She has maintained as several forum that “the I do not care attitude will kill our country and people should have the liberty to give evidence without fear or favour,”
Adding that the government’s overall goal is to stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society in bid to usher in development.
According to Col Nakalema, the State House Anti-Corruption Unit has received close to 8000 cases in the last two years that have been concluded through its established channels since its inception in December 2018.
“The Unit has managed to fully conclude up to about 8900 cases of the total cases reported,” Col. Nakalema said in a recent interview with PML Daily.
By April last year, the unit had so far conducted investigations on corruption-related offences in the central government (ministries, departments and agencies), local governments and the private sector.
A total of sh250b was involved in these investigations and 146 persons were charged before courts of law, out of which 120 are public officers who were interdicted while 26 were private companies/Individuals.
“Fourteen other persons were convicted, while several other cases are pending in court at various stages,” Col. Nakalema said.
She revealed that her anti-corruption Unit has also recovered a total of 1.73b; shs1b being money recovered from labour export companies that had taken money from desperate youths with the promise of jobs in the Middle East, but failed to provide the jobs.
According to Col. Nakalema, another sh738m was money recovered from air supplies from Gaming and Lotteries Board and returned to the Treasury.
According to data seen by PML Daily, 299 suspects have so far been charged, 39 suspects successfully convicted after the intervention of the SH-ACU.
“Some of the government agencies that used to report loses are now reporting profits eg after arrest of the top management of National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank [NAGRDC] the revenue that had stagnated at Shs800m increased drastically to Shs 66billio,” reads the Data from AG-ACU.
Echoing remarks in line with the same, Manafwa RDC Mr Ahmed Washaki said while detecting and punishing corruption requires a complex set of administrative and judicial institutions, Col. Nakalema has done a lot and that the country needs to appreciate her work in the fight against corruption.
“It may be possible to reinforce good administration of public funds by recognizing officials who adhere to good practices but I think we also need SH-ACU headed by Col Nakalema,” said Mr Washaki.
Mr Abas Wetaka, a local politician and opinion leader said although over time, the NRM government has been seeking an effective strategy to change the expectations of citizens about the performance of government, we are excited about Col Nakalema’s work in fighting corruption in order to build a culture of integrity among officials.
He explained that Anti-corruption and governance are undeniably key factors for achieving and sustaining development, globally as well as nationally and that governance and anti-corruption serve as forces behind eliminating poverty.
“And both are preconditions for sustainable and equitable development,” added Mr Wetaka.
The MP for Bulambuli [Elgon] Mr Isaac Katenya said Col. Nakalema’s unit has proved in a very short time that it can turn around the corruption tide in the country.
“And we don’t need to disablise this unit by either legal or illegal means because this will be a direct attack on the government and an acceptance of corruption in the country,” said Mr Katenya.
Ms Irene Muloni, former minister for energy and mineral development said “Well, so far so good. The formation of this unit has turned out to be a stellar anti-corruption tool.
As we move close to the end of 2021, SH-ACU has hit the first milestone.
We now are on the way to the next level to struggle to develop independent, accountable, and transparent governance across the country.