JASPER TUMUHIMBISE is the Coordinator of the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU), one of the civil society organisations at the forefront of fighting graft. EDRIS KIGGUNDU asked him for his assessment of the findings of the Third National Integrity Survey (NIS III) and corruption in general.
According to NIS III, the general perception is that corruption is on the increase. Do you agree?
I agree with it be cause this confirms the Transparency International’s index. But also the rate of exposure and political corruption has increased.
Isn’t this perception imagined or because more cases are now being brought to light by the media?
Yes the media exposure, but you remember in 1996 elections the rate of bribery was not comparable to that of 2006. In a way both grand political and corruption has been increasing. But also the media has played a big role as you realise every Ugandan now discusses NSSF-Temangalo saga.
The survey focuses much on graft in public institutions and there is a belief that even you anti-corruption activists rarely focus on graft that occurs in private agencies, which is sometimes worse
It is because government is still the biggest service provider. About 72% of goods and services are procured by government.
The report lauds Rwanda over efforts to fight corruption and urges Uganda to follow
This is what Museveni does not want to hear. I was studying their case when they decided to remove public vehicles from ministers, they just announced on the radio. Even in Uganda we have standing orders regarding abuse of public vehicles but are not followed because even the top people abuse them. I agree with the report that Rwanda has made strides yet they do not have a lot of legislation like the leadership code. If you are found with money you cannot explain, they will take action.
So you agree that the media is playing a bigger role of fighting graft than even some of anti-graft institutions.
The media has exposed so many cases. I have been moving around the country and you will find that everyone knows about the Temangalo saga because of the role of the media. Other government institutions cannot go telling people there is corruption in health, there is corruption in NSSF. When you find community stations like in Teso they are doing a great job than government institutions because people call in and express their views on how they think their money is being spent. But I also think the media can be used to educate people about how to fight corruption. People are not being told what to do in case they encounter corruption.
As the civil society are you doing your part?
Our contribution is the massive awareness but we need to complement one another as civil society. Civil society looks at itself as rivals because they are fighting for donors. But as ACCU we are going to the grassroots, put systems in place that can help change their perception, then help them increase the level of service delivery.
Do you agree with the survey assessment that the IGG’s office is now more efficient in this fight?
In 1998 the IGG’s office had not decentralized then in 2003 it decentralized and opened up many regional offices. It has more than 10 offices, meaning the capacity has increased and the IGG is more visible on the ground. I read in the survey they were saying they are good in service delivery, the same with the media and civil society. I believe we still have a lot to do.
Has Parliament been effective in passing anti-corruption legislation?
There are so many reports before parliament and even legislation has a problem. Even the committees that look at these laws before they are passed do not do a good job. Our effectiveness at scrutinizing laws is wanting. Look at how the NGO Bill was passed without even Parliament looking at it. Parliament’s capacity, especially under the multiparty dispensation, is so weak because whatever the executive wants will pass. Remember the report lists Parliament among the institutions in which the public has lost confidence.
Is there anyway corruption can be dealt with once and for all?
In case there is no political will, the best thing is mobilising people at the grassroots so that they know their rights. Let us now begin mobilisng them to begin demanding accountability from government so that at the time of voting, corruption becomes a hot potato. Corruption is still glorified in Uganda. You have people stealing GAVI funds and you glorify them. You heard that the whole of Kanungu thanked Mbabazi for overcoming the Temangalo saga. People do not link corruption to the deaths that occur because there are no malarial drugs.