Monday, June 29, 2009

Graft has hampered Uganda’s growth

by Elithabeth Angero (http://www.sundayvision.co.ug/)

IN the run-up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November 2007, Kampala and Entebbe glittered. Almost all streets shone with street lights and clean pavements. Flower-beds decorated the islands on roads, litter was disposed of in a rightful manner, and the roads were pothole-free, at least temporarily. The city had transformed into something foreign, something glamourous.

A walk through the city centre after sundown exposed one to unprecedented serenity. If only it had lasted. Hardly six months after CHOGM, roads had caved in, rubbish was strewn all over drainages and the flowers uprooted. That transformation cost sh157b.

If a chunk like that could bring such change to the city in a short time, imagine how much more change sh500b could bring. That is how much Uganda loses to corruption every year according to a World Bank report.

This raises the argument that if there were no corruption, donors would most probably contribute a negligible amount or nothing at all to the national budget. Instead, they have, for several years, funded a large portion of Uganda’s budget. This year, however, donors are covering just 33% of the budget. According to the 2007 World Bank report, Uganda loses $300m (sh500b) annually to corruption. Only recently, Transparency International (TI) ranked Uganda the third most corrupt among 69 countries sampled from Asia, America, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Uganda shares the third place with Cameroon. Liberia tops the list, with 87% of respondents saying they paid a bribe in the past year, followed by Sierra Leone (62%). A total of 55% of Ugandan respondents said they or someone living in their household paid a bribe in the past 12 months.

On TI’s Corruption Perception’s Index, Uganda ranks 126 out of 180 countries. Jasper Tumuhimbise, a co-ordinator with the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, argues that if there were no corruption, the gap between the rich and poor would not be so noticeable and, therefore, the crime rate would be low. He says people today break into cars and homes, not because they hate the individual but because they believe he has taken their money through embezzlement. Tumuhimbise argues that Uganda’s name is increasingly becoming synonymous with corruption.

The 2006 Auditor General’s report estimates that 20% of the value of public procurement is lost through corruption. In his State of the Nation Address recently, President Yoweri Museveni said he was shifting the war from the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels to corruption. Museveni cited the enactment of several bills as proof that the Government was serious about rooting out graft from the public and private sectors.

He pointed out making of the office of the Auditor General autonomous, the passing of the Anti-corruption Bill, the tabling in Parliament of the Whistle Blowers’ Bill and setting up the special Anti-corruption Court. In addition, he said, the staff of the Inspector General of Govern-ment (IGG) and the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) had been trained to handle corruption cases. However, the TI report indicated that 48% of Ugandans considered the Government’s actions in the fight against corruption as ineffective. Some consider the Government’s slashing of the budget for accountability institutions as proof of its reluctance to curb corruption.

Institutions like the IGG, Auditor General, Parliament, the DPP and ethics and integrity ministry will have sh336b and not sh417b like in the past. The figure is expected to further reduce to sh323b in the 2010/11 fiscal year. Aruu MP Odonga Otto says that without corruption, the Government would have fully paid for education for everyone right from primary to university.

Uganda would also have a functional health care system, Otto says. With the sh500b which the Government loses to corruption annually, a lot could have been achieved. For one, several schools and health facilities could have been set up. A quantity surveyor who spoke on condition of anonymity said sh500b is enough to build 1,250 classroom blocks of 800sq metres each. Most schools have an average of three classroom blocks, which translates into 416 schools furnished with three blocks each.

Alternatively, the money would boost the Police force’s salaries. Only recently, the Government increased the least earning officer’s salary to sh200,000. If you considered 500 officers, each earning sh200,000 paid in time every month, sh500b would cover their salaries for two years.

The same goes for primary school teachers, whose salaries were also increased to sh200,000 from sh150,000. While constructing roads is expensive, sh500b could at least grade and tarmack a few kilometres of feeder roads in small villages so that banana, coffee or potato farmers in Serere and Ntungamo can transport their goods with ease to the market. In the health sector, Minister of Health Stephen Mallinga says it could have trained more nurses and renovated some of the health centres, which are in very poor shape. “It could have been used to build residential structures for nurses and doctors,” he says, adding that they would have been able to buy more drugs. Instead, you have people selling drugs to neighbouring countries. “People are building houses and buying wonderful cars but nobody is asking how they got them. Where did they get the money when their salaries cannot afford them those things?” Mallinga asks, adding: “I am sure people are dying because of corruption.” In a country where over 137 children out of every 1,000 born die before their fifth birthday and 76 infants out of every 1,000 die before their first birthday, that money could have purchased mosquito nets for pregnant mothers, other mothers and their infants. Considering all the money Uganda loses to corruption, she would most certainly fund at least 90% of her own budget.

The different forms of corruption By Timothy Bukumunhe

IN 2003, Nigeria angrily disputed the annual Corruption Perception Index of anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI), which for the second straight year had said Nigeria was the second most corrupt country in the world. Remi Adebayo, a spokesman in the information ministry, said: “We are corrupt, yes, but not to the extent they are putting it. I won’t say we are number one, or two or three.” Here in Uganda while the Government remains very cagey about its perceived corruption, Teddy Cheeye, the director of economic Monitoring in the Internal Security Organisation, was recently jailed in Luzira prison for mismanagement of the Global Fund’s Money. Alice Kaboyo, a State House official and a number of ex-ministers are still waiting to hear their fate regarding the embezzlement of government funds. While we may think that corruption is limited to third world nations and leaders, it is not. According to TI, they list Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois Governor who recently tried to sell President Barack Obama’s vacant senate seat; Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s vice-president; former ambassador to the UN and now Kentucky Congressman Andrew Jackson and former president Richard Nixon as among the top 25 corrupt politicians in the US. There are different types of corruption.

Political
Political corruption is the use of power by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not directly involved with the government. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties. Forms of corruption include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering and trafficking, it is not restricted to these organised crime activities. Bribery Bribery around the world is estimated at about $1 trillion, and the burden of corruption falls disproportionately on the bottom billion people living in extreme poverty. Bribery requires two participants: one to give the bribe, and one to take it. In some countries the culture of corruption extends to every aspect of public life, making it extremely difficult for individuals to stay in business without resorting to bribes.

Graft
While bribery includes an intent to influence or be influenced by another for personal gain, which is often difficult to prove, graft only requires that the official gains something of value, not part of his official pay, when doing his work. Large “gifts” qualify as graft, and most countries have laws against it. (For example, any gift over $200 value made to the President of the United States is considered to be a gift to the Office of the Presidency and not to the President himself. The outgoing President must buy it if he or she wants to keep it.) Another example of graft is a politician using his knowledge of zoning to purchase land which he knows is planned for development, before this is publicly known, and then selling it at a significant profit. This is comparable to insider trading in business.

Patronage
Patronage refers to favouring supporters, for example with government employment. This may be legitimate, as when a newly elected government changes the top officials in the administration in order to effectively implement its policy. It can be seen as corruption if this means that incompetent persons, as a payment for supporting the regime, are selected before more able ones. In non-democracies many government officials are often selected for loyalty rather than ability.

Nepotism
Favouring relatives (nepotism) or personal friends (cronyism) is a form of illegitimate private gain. This may be combined with bribery, for example demanding that a business should employ a relative of an official controlling the regulations affecting the business. The most extreme example is when the entire state is inherited, as in North Korea or Syria. A milder form of cronyism is an “old boy network”, in which appointees to official positions are selected only from an exclusive social network — such as the alumni of particular universities — instead of appointing the most competent candidate.

Embezzlement
Embezzlement is outright theft of entrusted funds. Another common type of embezzlement is that of entrusted government resources; for example, when a director of a public enterprise employs company workers to build his own house.

Kickbacks
A kickback is an official’s share of misappropriated funds allocated from his or her organisation to an organisation involved in corrupt bidding.

Published on: Saturday, 27th June, 2009 (http://www.sundayvision.co.ug/)

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