By Andrew M. Mwenda
The standoff between central bank governor, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile and the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Irene Mulyagonja, is a distressing sign of institutional overreach. The central bank has constitutional independence in the performance of its duties. While the IGG has power to investigate it she does not have power to stop the governor from making routine transfers of staff. How can a staff refuse to vacate office when they have not been demoted and none of their entitlements like rank, salary, allowances, pensions etc have been affected by the transfer?
If the IGG were to have such powers, it would render public institutions impotent as chief executives would lose confidence to make new internal appointments and transfers for fear that an aggrieved staff member can easily block such a decision by appeal to the IGG. The IGG knows that even when fired, a staff member can seek redress from court and they would be paid damages for wrongful dismissal.
I feel the office of the IGG needs prestige and pedigree in order to command respect of all. To cultivate these, it needs to restrain itself from intervening in every big and small complaint brought to it by whistleblowers. Yet the IGG is always allowing her office to be dragged into petty office squabbles and business and procurement conflicts. I am not sure the framers of the constitution envisaged this extensive use of her discretionary powers.
The IGG knows (or should know) that all institutions of government have internal corrective and control mechanism to correct wrongs. Therefore if someone brought a complaint to her office, she should first ask these internal corrective and control mechanisms – like the board of directors, the HR department, internal audit, etc. to handle it. It is when these internal mechanisms fail that she should intervene.
This way she would kill four birds with one stone. First she would protect her office from getting dragged into and bogged down by every small quarrel and grudge internal to public organizations. Second she would conserve the limited human and financial resources at her disposal to handle more strategic issues with more focused attention. Three she would decongest the inspectorate of the more than 4,000 complaints that she is already failing to handle. Fourth she would allow a better environment for the progressive growth of internal corrective and control mechanisms in these institutions.
For now the inspectorate has become a clearing house for the settlement of personal and commercial grudges by anyone and everyone who comes claiming they are whistleblowers. If she keeps doing this she will be undermining not only public confidence in her work but also the internal institutional development of public bodies.