The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, has said that although Uganda has a law that provides for protection of witnesses or whistleblowers, the country lacks a conducive environment for witnesses with confidential information to aid investigations.
Because of the weak witness protection policy, Oulanyah said, Parliament’s accountability committees encounter stumbling blocks while carrying out investigations.
“In other countries, witnesses with confidential information are given new homes, new identity and even security but here even giving you a police officer for a month is not that easy,” said Oulanyah.
The Deputy Speaker made the remarks while presenting a paper during a workshop for Members of Parliament from the Republic of Somalia on Tuesday, 15 October 2019 at SKYZ Hotel Naguru.
Somali legislators are on a three-day study tour where they hope to learn from Uganda’s best legislative practices in oversight and representation.
Oulanyah asked Somali MPs to refrain from what he termed as ‘a common temptation’ by Parliamentary Committees on accountability turning themselves into arbitrators and thus harassing witnesses.
“We do oversight on behalf of our people and for their sake, so If you are working on behalf of people to establish how money was spent, do you have to harass witnesses, do you have to be rude to anybody?” asked Oulanyah.
Oulanyah said he was afraid that if witnesses are not assured of utmost protection, Parliament’s oversight function will be frustrated.
He cautioned legislators against turning the process of oversight into a tool of harassment and victimization, citing instances where a witness was intimidated during a Public Accounts Committee meeting and ran away.
“Now, if witnesses run away, what evidence will you have got? Somebody is preparing to give you evidence and you are telling him that we can send you to jail, will that person give you evidence?” Oulanyah asked.
He urged Somali legislators to aim at peaceful investigation rather than aiming at attaining popularity by intimidating witnesses.