By Lydia Namubiru
PUBLIC sector corruption in Uganda continues to worsen according to Transparency International. Corruption is now seen by Ugandans to be more rampant than it was in any of the past five years.
In its Corruption Perceptions Index, released on Tuesday, the watchdog ranked Uganda number 130 out of 180 nations. The ranking is based on perceived levels of corruption in the public sector. Position number 130 is four places below Uganda’s position last year and 28 places down from 2004.
“Those perceptions are consistent with what we found in our own integrity survey last year,” says the Inspector General of Government, Raphael Baku.
Ugandans believe that corruption is more rampant now than in the past. The argument is on whether perceptions are an actual indicator of increased corruption or not.
“It is a reflection of the truth,” says Jaspher Tumuhimbise who heads the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda.
“We have had very many corruption scandals and the amounts of money being stolen are also increasing. See what is happening with CHOGM. Next year that ranking will be even lower.”
Although Nsaba Buturo, the ethics minister, earlier this week called corruption “a major threat to the stability and security of the country,” he disagrees with the findings of Transparency International.
“The problem with that method is that you are collecting perceptions. That is not a reliable measure of the true situation,” he told Saturday Vision.
“It depends on who you ask. If you, for example, ask a member of the opposition, they are going to say that it is increasing.”
The 2008 National Integrity Survey of the IGG found there was rampant corruption in the public sector, especially in the Police, local defence units, district service commissions as well as the pension, judiciary and health sectors.
Similarly, high percentages were found in the other sectors. Even in the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, which is considered the cleanest public company, about four out of every 10 clients reported making unofficial payments.
In addition to paying unofficial fees, respondents reported other forms of corruption like extortion, favouritism, nepotism, fraud, embezzlement and non-attendance.
In Apac district, respondents reported that community members, Criminal Investigations Department officers, state attorneys and court clerks formed syndicates to extort money from the public.
In one particular case, a man reported that Police detectives approached the mother of his long-time girlfriend and asked her to lie that her daughter was under-age.
The man was charged with defilement, arrested and subjected to psychological torture so as to extort money from him. When he resisted, he was served with court summons. He was released on Police bond, went back home, sold his two cows and paid off his tormentors.
The IGG’s office later discovered that the court summons were fake as his case never entered the court registers. The stamp on the summons had been provided by a court clerk who, by virtue of his job, had access to it.
Reporting corruption is, however, very low across the country, according to the integrity survey. Half of respondents said they don’t report corruption because they don’t know where to go.
The other half did not report either for fear to offend others, for fear of revenge from corrupt officials or because the process is too laborious.
Another question is whether the Government is doing enough to stop it. “We are taking corruption very seriously,” says Buturo.
He refers to the new Anti-Corruption Bill, the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Court two years ago and the President’s public statements on zero-tolerance.
But Tumuhimbise calls these efforts mere window dressing. “On paper we look good. We have the Anti-Corruption Court, the IGG and the public accounts committee. However, all this is a waste of time without the political will to fight corruption.”
In his view, there are not enough arrests or convictions against the perpetrators of corruption. “Political will means that you arrest people without fear or favour that one is your relative or friend. Until we can do that, corruption is going to increase.”
Baku is more optimistic. He believes that strengthening the anti-corruption agencies will gradually reduce the vice.
“I can see an end to corruption if we can get the Anti-Corruption Court working properly, as well as the Police, the office of the DPP and the IGG,” he said.
In his opinion, deterrent measures and securing more convictions for corruption suspects are key to winning the war on corruption.