NRM Boss-Corruption in Uganda is Systematic and high ranking corrupt people enjoy impunity
Authored by Eng.Kiiza Idiri Kamuntu a The Patriot and the National Coordinator for Team Thorough-Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Currently Uganda’s development is constrained by a number of factors and one of them is;
- Corruption remains one of Uganda’s major challenge hindering development and socio-economic progress.
- Corruption increases the cost of doing business and negatively affects service delivery.
- Corruption permeates all parts of Ugandan society and acts as a major constraint on economic development and poverty reduction.
- The country’s legal framework for fighting corruption is relatively strong with several new anti-corruption laws having been passed.
- Implementation of Anti-corruption laws is weak, especially for cases of grand corruption.
EXTENT OF CORRUPTION
- Most Ugandans perceive their country to be corrupt, becoming more corrupt, and the government is trying but not doing a good job in fighting corruption.
- The perception of Ugandans is that corruption is getting worse with more public funds being misappropriated in increasingly sophisticated ways.
- Major governance indicators point to systemic corruption permeating all levels of Ugandan society.
Major Forms of corruption in Uganda. A survey of citizens carried out by the Inspectorate of Government showed that the most common forms of corruption that people encounter are;
- Petty and bureaucratic corruption; iePayment of bribes (66% of the respondents) Paying bribes as a regular part of daily life in Uganda.
- Paying a bribe for a public service
- State-run health centres regularly hand out medication only after receiving a bribe.
- State employed lawyers employed to help register someone’s plot of land will regularly list “facilitation fees” among their cost estimates
- Embezzlement of public money (15%)
- Nepotism (5%)
- Favouritism (3%).
- Political corruption
- Influence peddling
In a survey of citizens, people tended to think that the underlying cause of bribery was greed, whereas in the previous surveys it has been attributed to a combination of factors including low pay, greed, impunity etc
Ugandans perceive the police to be the most corrupt institution, with 63% of people agreeing that most or all are corrupt. Government officials, tax officials, judges and magistrates and business executives are all also perceived to be corrupt by 40%.
There have been a number of high-profile corruption scandals in Uganda, including against senior-ranking members of the ruling party, civil servants and army officers. Though there are cases where senior people have been convicted of corruption, it is widely believed that the highest-ranking people enjoy impunity.
- Most prominently, in 2012, it was alleged that US$13 million in donor funds had been embezzled from the Office of the Prime Minister and funnelled into private bank accounts. As a result, donors suspended over US$300 million in direct budgetary support to the government (Al Jazeera 2012; HRW 2013; Swedlund 2017; Transparency International 2012).
- Despite such scandals, top government officials are rarely prosecuted and even when forced to resign, are often reappointed to key positions (HRW 2013).
- The Inspectorate of Government states that the number of cases of grand corruption has increased and that officials are devising new ways to avoid detection, including by acting in a syndicate with officials from other parts of government (Inspectorate of Government 2014).
Although the law provides for checks and balances between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the Bertelsmann Foundation states that they are often overstepped.
Main sectors and areas affected by corruption
- Police and some other security forces
- Natural Resources; the Oil and Gas sector
- Public Financial Management
LEGAL AND INSTITUTIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION FRAMEWORK
- International conventions and initiatives; Uganda ratified both the UN Convention Against Corruption and the African Union’s Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption in 2004 (UNODC 2018, African Union 2017) and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in 2005 (United Nations Treaty Collection 2018).
- Domestic legal framework; Uganda is considered to have a relatively strong legal framework for preventing, detecting and deterring corruption, including an array of recently-passed legislation. Enforcement of the laws is considered weak.
- Enabling acts against corruption; The Public Financial Management Act was passed in 2015 with the aim of improving the management of public finances. It strengthens the obligation to publish information about the government budget, establishes a Treasury Single Account that aims to make public expenditure more transparent, and introduces a transparent framework for managing the expected oil revenue
- The Leadership Code Act was passed in 2002.It criminalises attempted corruption, bribery, extortion, bribing a foreign public official and abuse of office. Gifts or donations are required to be declared over a certain threshold (GAN Integrity 2017).
- The Anti-Corruption Act was passed in 2009. It aims to prevent corruption in the public and private sectors by criminalizing bribery and influence peddling and giving special investigative powers to the head of the Inspectorate of Government and the director of public prosecutions. It forbids public officials from accepting bribes
- The Whistleblowers Protection Act was passed in 2010. It provides some protection to people who report corruption
- Access to information is often impeded, despite Uganda being one of the first African countries to pass an access to information act, in 2005 (CIPESA 2017). Despite this, government departments often deny requests for information and other laws related to national security and confidentiality restrict access to information (Freedom House 2018).
INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK AGAINST CORRUPTION IN UGANDA
In general, anti-corruption institutions in Uganda are successful in prosecuting low-level corruption involving small amounts of money but are largely ineffective in curbing grand scale corruption (HRW 2013).
- Inspectorate of Government (IGG); The Office of the Inspectorate of Government was established in 1988 and has a mandate to promote good governance, accountability and the rule of law in public office. It investigates possible cases of corruption and has the powers to search premises and bank accounts and to prosecute and arrest people. The inspectorate also serves as the country’s ombudsman. However, the Inspectorate of Government faces a number of challenges including inadequate funding, low pay, understaffing, court delays and political interference.
- Office of the Auditor General; The Office of the Auditor General is responsible for the auditing of the accounts of central and local government, as well as public and private organizations. It submits audit reports to parliament. The office is understaffed. Parliament takes a long time to debate its reports and its recommendations are often not implemented by either local or national level authorities.
- Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions; The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions handles and prosecutes all types of criminal cases, including corruption cases. This means that its mandate overlaps somewhat with that of the Inspectorate of Government.
- The Anti-Corruption Division of the High Court;The Anti-Corruption Division is a specialised tribunal of the Ugandan High Court that has jurisdiction over all corruption cases. It was set up in 2008 to speed up the resolution of corruption cases. The Inspectorate of Government, Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Uganda Revenue Authority may file cases with the court (U4 2016).Between 2009 and July 2015, the court received 1,071 cases, resolved 822 of them convicted 288 people (U4 2016) and saved the government US$19 million (Daily Monitor 2017).In some high-profile cases, prosecutors have been requested to delay prosecution or prematurely try a case with incomplete or weak evidence, and investigators, prosecutors and witnesses have been threatened or demanded bribes (HRW 2013). The court publishes some but not all of its decisions on its website; anti-corruption activists have called for all verdicts to be published (U4 2016).
- Directorate of Ethics and Integrity; The Directorate of Ethics and Integrity is part of the office of the president and is headed by the minister for ethics and integrity. It is responsible for coordinating the anti-corruption work of other government agencies and for promoting ethics and integrity, including implementing the five-year national anti-corruption strategy.
- Public Accounts Committee;The parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has been active in its current form since 1995. It aims to provide a check on the government’s expenditure, including highlighting any corruption. It is chaired and deputised by an opposition member.The committee is very active, receives generous financial support and has experienced parliamentarians sitting on it.However, the committee is slow to consider the reports of the auditor general and faces challenges in receiving timely responses from government.
- Citizens -Citizens as the masters of their destiny; they are the key overseers of Government programs, service delivery and can act as whistleblowers.
- Media-Uganda’s constitution provides for freedom of expression and for a free press. It has one of the most vibrant media scenes in east and central Africa, with thriving newspapers in English and various Ugandan languages (Bertelsmann Foundation 2018; Freedom House 2017).In practice, freedom of expression is generally allowed (Bertelsmann Foundation 2018) and journalists are frequently critical of the government (Freedom House 2018).However, journalists sometimes face harassment, violence or arbitrary arrest
- Civil society-Uganda has a large number of civil society organisations that play an active role in Ugandan life (Bertelsmann Foundation 2018; International Center for Not-For-Profit Law 2018).In general, civil society organisations have been allowed to work freely and cooperate with foreign partners (Bertelsmann Foundation 2018). For example, they successfully pushed for electoral reform ahead of the 2016 general elections (International Center for Not-For-Profit Law 2018).
The legal framework is supportive of NGOs as long as their work is acceptable to the government (International Center for Not-For-Profit Law 2018). Indeed, local-level NGOs tend to avoid working on topics seen as being political. Their activities are closely watched by the state (Bertelsmann Foundation 2018). Registration procedures are burdensome (International Center for Not-For-Profit Law 2018).In 2013, Uganda passed the Public Order Management Act which, among other things, gives the police the power to prohibit public meetings or to decide where public meetings should be held.
SOLUTIONS/REMEDY TO FIGHT CORRUPTION
- Conduct risk assessment
- Always conduct due diligence
- Keep reviewing National policies
- Communicate and train
- Always protect whistleblowers
- Plan, Monitor and review
- Use the power of citizens
- Punish corrupt officials
- Enforce existing laws
- There should be political will
Authored by Eng Kiiza Idiri Kamuntu a The Patriot and the National Coordinator for Team Thorough-Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
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