FEBRUARY 26, 2010: Whistleblowers Bill Divides MPs

Whistleblowers Bill Divides MPs
SOURCE: Monitor
By Yasiin Mugerwa

Parliament — Cynicism took centre stage on Wednesday as MPs started debate on the new whistleblowers Bill. The Bill seeks to fight corruption in government and private offices.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum criticised the Bill for lack of safeguards to whistleblowers, the individuals, who will be reporting the corrupt to the authorities.

"Unless nationalism is strengthened, this whistleblowers Bill cannot succeed, you report the corrupt and people disown you," Mr William Nsubuga (NRM, Buvuma) said.

He added: "This is the reality on ground. The people out there are hostile to those who report the corrupt and this is why this legislation cannot succeed as long as people still glorify the corrupt."

Col. Tom Butime (NRM, Mwenge North), however, deferred with many, saying, even if the whistleblowers were to be killed, due to lack of adequate protection, there was a need to fight corruption.

"There will be victims and there is no doubt about that. But even if some people die, we cannot all run to Kenya. This is our country and we must do something to fight corruption," he said.

But Aruu MP Odonga Otto said; "There is need to first strengthen the protection of the volunteers of information on the corrupt."

"An independent body should be created to undertake this mandate," MP Otto, who was supported by the deputy Speaker, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, said.

But in his response, the Ethics Minister, Dr Nsaba Buturo, who is the architect of the new Bill, appealed for a common front against corruption, adding that the whistleblowers legislation was yet another government measure to stamp out corruption.

"Our country is at crossroads because of corruption and we must stand up to fight this evil," Dr Buturo said. "This Bill offers safeguards to the people who report corruption. For instance those who receive the information face five years in jail should he or she, abuse information from the whistleblowers."

However, another group of MPs led by Stephen Kagwera (Burahya) and John Arumadri (Madi-Okollo) expressed fears that the Bill might not work since most of the Ugandans are ignorant of what goes on in government departments.

"Most of our people don't know what is going on including MPs. For this Bill to succeed there should be an informed population so that they can report corrupt tendencies," Mr Kagwera said.

He said unemployment should also be tackled to enable people report the corrupt in both private and public offices.

The debate on the Bill is expected to continue.