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No amount of policing will end corruption in Judiciary, says Ogoola

CORRUPTION | Legislation and other policies will never be enough to check corruption in the Judiciary, former Principle Judge James Ogoola has said.

Instead, the nation has to go back to teaching values such as honesty, hard work and merit if the monster is to be dealt with in Uganda, he added.

Ogoola made the remarks yesterday while appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, where he had appeared to submit his views on the Administration of Judiciary Bill 2018, a legislation that seeks to cater for retirement benefits of the Judicial Officers, with proposal to have retiring judicial officers leave with their full benefits.

The bill seeks to provide for the effective and efficient administration of the Judiciary by enhancing Chapter 8 of the Constitution and those supporting the Bill argued that it will be critical at uprooting corruption in the Judiciary.

Ogoola’s open-book assessment was in response to MP Veronica Bichetero’s query on whether the Bill would be critical in reducing corruption in the Judiciary.

He said corruption cannot be legislated away, but rather, the nation needs to go back to imparting core moral values in the citizens.

“Corruption is a monster that you cannot legislate about. You can bring 20 bills in this House about corruption — I don’t know how many we have –, that in itself will not end corruption,” he said.

“What will take away corruption is different. Let us do that ourselves, where is Uganda today? What is the new generation? What are the values of this new generation. It is money,” he added.

He told the committee of his experience while joining legal practice where he came from Dar-es-Salaam University in Tanzania, did an interview and was earning Shs1,000 a month with lawyers, doctors engineers having been the highest paid people earning Shs12,000 a year.

Ogoola added that he used the Shs1,000 salary to pay all his bills and that was the same amount he used to “relax every evening” en route to his home and would at time sleep without dinner but with liquid diet (alcohol).

‘Glad to be out of it’

The retired justice argued that there is need to teach moral values in families and from early on in schools.

“Let us do to the economy what it takes to take away this urge and lust for money. It would be wrong to say that the Judiciary isn’t corrupt. It is corrupt, horribly corrupt. I am so glad I am now retired and not part of it. When I used to be Principal Judge walking on the street, I would say to myself, now everybody was saying that is my money walking,” Ogoola said.

In his submission, the retired justice argued that Judges could be corrupt for many reasons including uncertainty of what they would do after retirement and blamed this on the fact that judges are not allowed to do anything in life except judge.

“They are not allowed to socialise freely, they can’t practice law, run a shop. They have no other source of income except salary from the Judiciary. An ordinary person could be tempted to tip where they shouldn’t,” Ogoola argued.

Ironically, a survey by Twaweza, a local NGO, says majority of Ugandans have a strong faith in the justice system to handle cases objectively, which appears at odds with Justice Ogoola’s conviction on the level of rot in the Judiciary.

Twaweza’s data, which was obtained from its programme christened ‘Sauti za Wananchi’ (Voices of Citizens), Africa’s first nationally representative high-frequency mobile phone based survey, indicates 85% of citizens agree that “when a person of wealth or authority commits a crime, he or she will be punished according to the law.”

The findings, based on data collected from 1,925 respondents across Uganda carried out between May 4 and 12 of 2018, further shows that a large majority 86 percent agree that all citizens will be punished equally regardless of their wealth.

Ideally, a corrupt Judiciary, not least the scenario Ogoola paints that shows that judges are constrained to only earn from their official work, means getting envelopes from wealthy persons to tip outcomes of legal suits would be commonplace.

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