KAMPALA – Holding a public office is holding trust for Ugandans. There is no greater betrayal then public trust. Public office is a public trust, the authority and opportunities which must be used absolutely as the public moneys for the public benefit, and not for the purpose of any individual (Doman Bridgeman Eaton).
Last week we witnessed an unfolding scandal where senior public officers were apprehended while others are being investigated for stealing food relief meant for needy people in areas affected by disasters. This unethical behavior violates the provision of the Leadership Code Act as regards abuse of office and misconduct of public officers in the course of duty. The right to food is more critical than any other human right.
Corruption in Uganda is characterized by grand-scale theft of public resources and petty corruption involving public officials at all levels of society. It is one of the main challenges facing our country. It affects a wide range of sectors and government institutions, including procurement, police, defense, education, transport and health sectors. Corruption is a security hazard too.
This squandering of maize, beans and other items meant for the vulnerable, needy and poor Ugandans upcountry is outright acts constituting the offences of corruption.
This is an injustice, abuse of office, amounts to theft, an outrightly abuse of the Rule of Law. This is greed and selfishness on the part of the apprehended public officers as well as a definite breach of public trust.
When people meant to receive food are denied their entitlement, it leads to abuse of human rights, mass food shortage resulting into nutrition and food deficiency, results into health complexities in the long run. Forgery of records to defeat the needy’ s entitlement to food rations is at all foes corruption. Public officers culpable for such occurrences must be deterrent through strongest and stringent measures and punishments.
Such corrupt public officers shouldn’t be allowed to serve the public henceforth. Squandering food relief to rural underprivileged leads to acute food shortage and grave nutrition deficiency. It worsens food poverty and undernutrition in Uganda.
It’s incumbent that we exercise transparency, accountability with the highest levels of responsibility as public officers entrusted with food relief to pass it on to the rightful recipients. Grabbing and diverting food relief for personal gains is inextricably linked to corruption. It is unethical and morally deplorable. Food relief distribution ought to be done with the highest levels of accountability, organization and effectively implemented in a timely manner.
Once the rightful recipients obtain their food entitlements, we will be able to curb food poverty, reduce malnutrition but most importantly honors the right to food. Deterrent means to discourage, it seeks to discourage the evil minds into treading the wrong and the illegal path. In this case public officers ought to be discouraged from a mindset of denying communities food relief.
The deterrence theory of criminal jurisprudence is key. This particular theory sets the dreadful consequences i.e. punitive actions against the wrongdoer in order to curb the menaces of the would-be evildoers and it also deters the criminals to commit the crime for the next time.
In an essay by Daniel S. Nagin “Deterrence in the twenty-first Century” written in the year 2013, vividly explained a few points relating to the deterrent theory which can be summarized by stating that the fear of being caught is far more dreadful than the draconian punishment when the legal system has been successful in punishing a criminal it has shown its power in getting hold of the criminal, this alone shall act as a fear psychosis in the minds of the other criminals. It is also the police force that helps in deterring a crime.
The strategies used by the police such as sentinels and hot spot policing are effective. A criminal’s behavior is likely to be affected by the strict penal provisions and punishments. In corruption let the punishments be so stringent as a deterrence. In this case, denying masses food relief resulting in mass deaths deserves a death sentence. In my opinion, the public officers who for self-enrichment/gains steal relief food deserve draconian punishments custodial sentences with their assets frozen to recover funds gained from sold relief food. Inevitably, this will act as fear psychosis in the minds of other potential criminals and stop theft.
It can be very well concluded that over the year’s death penalty have not been very effective in deterring the most heinous crimes in society had it been so there had been only one death sentence to date for a similar type of offence, drawing the point to the number of increasing rape cases in the last decades it is very disheartening that a complete dead stop to this offence has not been achieved. The severity of the punishment must be equivalent to the gravity of the offence of squandering food relief distribution.
Ms. Joyce Nalunga Birimumaaso is a senior advocate and member of leadership Code Tribunal