Uganda 2021


Despite the existence of robust laws and dedicated anti-corruption institutions, Uganda is ranked among the most corrupt countries in Africa and the world at large.  According to Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) on a scale of the least to most corrupt countries in the world, Uganda ranked 142 out of 180 countries. On the World Press Freedom Index, Uganda ranks 125 out of 180.1

In 2012, Uganda recorded the highest incidences of corruption in the East African Region.2 A 2013 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) found that corruption in Uganda is both systemic and systematic.3 It involves top and high-ranking officials in government as well as those that are politically well connected. In this way, corruption has become the fuel for the patronage machinery of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government, which has ruled Uganda since 1986.4 For this reason there is a lack of political will to combat corruption from the top NRM leadership.5

The absence of political will is demonstrated in the frequent interference in the work of anti-corruption institutions, delays in the appointment of members of inspectorate and the leadership code tribunal, as well as the failure to adequately fund these institutions. All this greatly undermines the functioning of anti-corruption laws and institutions and affects efforts geared towards asset recovery.

Asset recovery in Uganda

Asset recovery in the Ugandan context has been defined as the process of tracing, freezing, security, managing, confiscating, and returning to the country or government, movable or immovable property that has been obtained through illicit means.6 The Anti-Corruption Act in 2009 is the most relevant law for addressing corruption and for asset recovery.

While the implementation of current anti-corruption laws is a shared responsibility, under the Constitution, the Inspectorate of Government is established as the major anti-corruption agency with the mandate to “eliminate and foster the elimination of corruption, abuse of authority and public office.7 The IG is complemented by numerous other institutions which are also members of the Inter-Agency Forum against Corruption (IAF).8

Uganda hosts a rich civil society, with a number of anti-corruption organisations active on the district, regional, national, and also cross-border, levels. However, in the last ten years the ruling government has turned to intimidating, cutting off international sources of financial support9 and oppressing dissenting voices and critical civil society organizations.10

Asset recovery reform

The Inspectorate of Government Statute of 1988 criminalized acts of corruption and established a dedicated anti-corruption agency with a dual mandate: combating corruption and addressing human rights abuses.11 In 2002, this law was amended to further streamline the role of the Inspectorate of Government (IG) to exclusively combat corruption.12 As part of a legislative reform process, Uganda enacted the Anti-Corruption Act in 2009.13 This is currently the major law under which corruption is criminalized.

In 2015 the Anti-Corruption Act14 of 2009 was specifically amended to introduce an asset recovery regime in respect to corruption and its related offences. This law makes provisions for  the payment of compensation out of resources and property belonging to a person convicted of corruption and similar offences. It also empowers the IG and the ODPP to apply for confiscation of property belonging to a person convicted of an offence under the law. Moreover, the law also makes provision for tracing, freezing and management of property obtained through illicit/corrupt means. These provisions are the bedrock for Uganda’s asset recovery regime in corruption cases: they facilitate the confiscation and return of assets obtained through corruption and other illicit means. The law also gives the courts of judicature the power to appoint receivers and administrators whose mandate is to manage the assets of an accused person pending the conclusion of the trial. This is fundamental for asset recovery as it ensures that the property of persons accused of corruption are preserved during the time they remain on trial and until their matters are disposed of by the courts.

Asset recovery provisions exist in numerous other pieces of legislation. This includes the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2013 (as amended),15 which provides for the recovery of tainted property obtained through crime. The Access to Information Act, 2005, Leadership Code Act, 2002 and the Whistle Blower Protection Act, 2010 are all laws that work toward asset recovery in Uganda by means of facilitating the disclosure of information relating to property belonging to persons accused of committing acts of corruption and other related offences.

Progress in asset recovery

In terms of institutional arrangements, asset recovery in the context of corruption is largely a function of the Inspectorate of Government, and the ODPP – both recover assets in respect to cases they prosecute. In furtherance of this shared mandate, dedicated asset recovery units have been formed within each of these two institutions. The Asset Recovery Unit (ARU) of the IG was formed in 2016. The Unit is charged with the enforcement of recovery orders and may also enter into voluntary agreements for recovery of property with suspects. As of June 2019, ARU had since its operationalisation in 2017 recovered a total of UGX 4,419,014,014 (Approx. USD 1,210,000).16

The ODPP also has a dedicated Asset Recovery Division (ARD). Between November 2017 and November 2018, the ARD recovered and deposited on an account in the Central Bank of Uganda a total of UGX 1,174, 363, 766 (Approx. USD 321,567).17 In the same period, the ARD managed to obtain restraining orders in respect to property constituting of land, motor vehicles and bank accounts belonging to various persons charged with offences under the Anti-Corruption Act.18 It is important to note that with the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2013 the work of the ARU and ARD is now complemented by the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) and gives the FIA various powers in respect to recovery of tainted property.

Domestic recovery

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was cast into the spotlight in 2012 following allegations of mismanagement of funds meant for the rehabilitation and recovery of northern Uganda after the region emerged from a violent conflict.19 In response to this, the government of Uganda commissioned a special audit into the activities of the OPM. According to the findings of the Auditor General, close to UGX 50 billion was lost to unscrupulous officials and individuals at the OPM. The report also found that Geoffrey Kazinda, who was the principal accountant at the OPM, was the main architect of the scheme to defraud the government. In 2012 he was charged with several offences including abuse of office, making a document without authority, forgery, and unlawful possession of government stores.20 In 2013 he was found guilty and sentenced him to 5 years in prison, however while still serving his sentence, several other charges were brought against him. From these additional investigations, the court found that although registered in other people’s names, the accused was at all times in material control of the property linked to him. Secondly, the ascertained value of the property i.e., UGX 3,165,717,471,500 (land and developments) and UGX 762,108,317,471(cars) was grossly disproportional to the accused’s total income over a period of 18 years for which he was employed. In addition to an extra 15 year prison sentence, the court ordered the confiscation of the assets. Collectively, Kazinda’s assets were valued at USD 1.25 million, this was the biggest asset recovery case in Uganda’s history.21

Three top officials in the Ministry of Public Service, Christopher Obey, Jimmy Lwamafa and Kiwanuka Kunsa, showed that they illegally budgeted payments amounting to UGX 88.2 billion to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) between 2010 and 2012.22 The payments were made on ghost accounts were purported as gratuities and pensions to former employees of the defunct East African Community instead of the NSSF. In addition to their prison sentences, the court ordered for the three to jointly compensate the government of Uganda a sum of UGX 50 billion (approx. USD 13.9 million). Although this amount has yet to be fully recovered due to associated legal hurdles, if successful, it will be the biggest in the country’s history.

In 2018 these three officials were again convicted on separate charges involving the diversion of public resources and conspiracy to defraud government with Bob Kasango, a private practice lawyer. The officials paid Kasango by diverting a sum of UGX 15.4 billion in legal fees and costs not budgeted for.23 In addition to prison sentences, the three officials were each ordered to compensate the government UGX 3,495,680,066. The lawyer was sentenced to a total of 16 years imprisonment and ordered to compensate the government UGX 5 billion but died before this amount could be recovered.

International Recovery

Uganda has so far recorded one offshore case in respect to corruption and asset recovery.  In 2008 a British court found that then presidential advisor Ananias Tumukunde had received GBP 80,000 (approx. USD 96,681) as a bribe from a British firm contracted to supply security equipment that was to be used during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Uganda in 2007. He was convicted and sentenced to one year in jail. He also agreed to refund the said amount to the UK.24

International Institutional Engagement

Uganda is a state party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUPCC). Uganda is also a member of several regional and international anti-corruption institutional arrangements. This includes the Asset Recovery Inter Agency Network for East Africa (ARIN-EA) and the East African Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (EAAACA). The country is one of the eighteen member countries of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) – a regional body formed to help countries to implement standards designed to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.25 Uganda’s FIA is also a member of the Egmont Group of Financial Intelligence Units. While all these institutional arrangements are yet to be fully optimised for asset recovery purposes, they provide an important avenue for cross border enforcement of anti-corruption laws and asset recovery.

In September 2020, Uganda made a high-level political commitment with FATF and ESAAMLG to improve its anti-money laundering and counter terrorism financing regimes.26 This is an important development considering that Uganda has previously been blacklisted and is presently under increased monitoring by FATF.


The IG and ODPP face many challenges to their role of preserving properties pending the outcome of court proceedings. The absence of a property management and administration system has made it difficult to preserve assets belonging to persons on trial and ensuring such assets remain going concerns up until the time when the court makes its final pronouncement.27 Confiscated assets end up being stored with the police and, in some instance, court premises, where their value greatly deteriorates to the extent that some are worthless by the time the conviction is achieved. Amidst the absence of an asset management system, courts have become reluctant to issue restraining orders. The ODPP and the IG are also increasingly reluctant to apply for such orders out of fear that if the accused person is eventually acquitted, they would be required to compensate them for any lost earnings.

The two agencies are for the most part understaffed and often lack specialized tools and skills for identification, tracking and recovery of assets.28 In some cases, asset recovery has been frustrated by corruption by officials employed in the very bodies that are mandated to pursue and enforce recovery. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has previously decried that on some occasions its officers have connived with suspects and their families to frustrate the recovery process in return for bribes.29

The lack of a witness protection law also makes asset discovery very difficult. Although there presently exists a law for protection of whistle blowers, the protection offered is restricted to the time the disclosure of information, i.e. whistleblowing, is made. With no protection offered to people who testify in court, there is a reluctance for persons to offer critical information relating to properties owned by, or otherwise associated with the accused.30

Furthermore, in 2017 there was an amendment to the Leadership Code Act to remove the requirement for leaders to declare names, income, assets and liabilities of their spouses and children. Before the amendment, leaders had a legal obligation to provide these details. This amendment therefore has serious implications for asset recovery as it may lead to an increase in corrupt officials hiding their properties in the names of their spouses and children.31 This in turn has made asset identification and tracing for the purposes of recovery in Uganda more difficult than it previously had been.


  1. Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2020. Available at: https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2020, Reporters without Borders, World Press Freedom Index 2021, https://rsf.org/en/ranking/2021#
  2. Uganda Tops East Africa in Corruption, Transparency International, Available at: https://www.transparency.org/en/press/uganda-tops-east-africa-in-corruption
  3. Maria Burnett, Let the Big Fish Swim: Failures to Prosecute High Level Corruption in Uganda, Human Rights Watch & Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic -Yale Law School, October 2013. Available at: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/uganda1013_ForUpload_1.pdf
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. IGG Report to Parliament, July to December 2017, pg. 12. Available at: https://www.igg.go.ug/media/files/publications/IG_Report_to_Parliament_July_-_December_2017.pdf
  7. Articles 223 and 225 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.
  8. The Inter-Agency Forum against Corruption (IAF). https://www.dei.go.ug/iaf.html
  9. Freedom House. Uganda: Suspension of Democratic Governance Facility Highlights Growing Concerns. February 4, 2021. Available at: : https://freedomhouse.org/article/uganda-suspension-democratic-governance-facility-highlights-growing-concerns
  10. Interview with a Uganda CSO representative, July 2021.
  11. Inspectorate of Government Act, 1998.
  12. Inspectorate of Government Act, 2002 (as amended)
  13. Anti-Corruption Act, 2009 (as amended)
  14. Order of the Government of Uganda. Anti-Corruption Act, 2009. Accessible at: https://www.fia.go.ug/sites/default/files/2020-06/The%20Anti-Corruption%20Act%2C%202009.pdf
  15. Order of the Government of Uganda. Anti-Money Laundering Act 2013. Accessible at: https://www.bou.or.ug/bou/bouwebsite/bouwebsitecontent/acts/supervision_acts_regulations/FI_Act/The-Anti-money-Laundering-Act-2013.pdf
  16. Reports of the Directorate of Legal Affairs, Inspectorate of Government in respect to  FY 2017/18, FY 2018/19 and FY 2019/20.
  17. Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Performance Report, November 30, 2018, pg. 3. Available at: https://www.dpp.go.ug/index.php/component/k2/item/30-the-directors-remarks-at-the-launch-of-anti-corruption-week
  18. Id.
  19. Mark Tran, UK Suspends aid to Ugandan Prime Ministers Office after Fraud Claim, The Guardian, October 31, 2012. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2012/oct/31/uk-aid-ugandan-prime-minister-fraud
  20. Uganda v Kazinda (HCT- 00- SC-2012/138) [2013] UGHCACD 10 (19 June 2013). Available at: https://ulii.org/ug/judgment/hc-anti-corruption-division-uganda/2013/10
  21. Tom Walugembe, Uganda achieves Landmark Victory in USD 1.25 million Illicit Enrichment Case. Basel Institute of Governance, November 18, 2020. Available at: https://baselgovernance.org/blog/uganda-achieves-landmark-victory-usd-125-million-illicit-enrichment-case
  22. Uganda v Lwamafa & 2 Ors (Criminal Session Case-2015/9) [2016] UGHCACD 4 (11 November 2016). Available at: https://ulii.org/ug/judgment/hc-anti-corruption-division-uganda/2016/4
  23. Uganda v Lwamafa Jimmy & 3 Ors (Criminal Session Case-2016/3) [2018] UGHCACD 11 (21 December 2018). Available at: https://ulii.org/ug/judgment/hc-anti-corruption-division-uganda/2018/11
  24. Megan Murphy, Ugandan Jailed for Taking Security Bribe, Financial Times, September 22, 2008. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/a6ecaa60-88c7-11dd-a179-0000779fd18c
  25. About Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group, Available at: https://www.esaamlg.org/index.php/about
  26. Jurisdictions Under Increased Monitoring- June 2021. Available at: https://www.fatf-gafi.org/countries/a-c/barbados/documents/increased-monitoring-june-2021.html
  27.  Tom Walugembe, Breaking New Ground, Prosecuting the First Money Laundering Case in Uganda, May 22, 2020. Available at: https://baselgovernance.org/blog/breaking-new-ground-prosecuting-first-money-laundering-case-uganda
  28. Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Performance Report, November 30, 2018, pg. 3. Available at: https://www.dpp.go.ug/index.php/component/k2/item/30-the-directors-remarks-at-the-launch-of-anti-corruption-week
  29. URN, Corruption is Hampering Implementation of Asset Recovery -DPP, The Independent, April 18, 2021. Available at: https://www.independent.co.ug/corruption-is-hampering-implementation-of-asset-recovery-dpp/
  30. Office of the DPP, Performance Report 2018.
  31. Leadership Code (Amendment) Act, 2017