Wednesday, January 12, 2011

AC Policy in Uganda Part 4 (last)

4.0 Challenges
The robust legal and regulatory frameworks against corruption and Uganda’s successes in poverty reduction have been widely acknowledged. Because of high levels of corruption, there is a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots as well as regional inequalities. As earlier mentioned above, Uganda remains one of the poorest countries in the world with 31% of the population living below the poverty line and a per capita income of around $300 per annum. Sections of society are not benefiting from the available economic opportunities for poverty reduction due to corruption.

The IAF coordinated by the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity in the fight against corruption in Uganda has various roles and despite of the legal and institutional framework as well as various declarations committing the Government to fight corruption, corruption has reportedly increased to appalling levels. There is urgent need to establish why this is so and why Government has not translated into action the political will to fight corruption. Yet this alarming trend alienates citizenry from supporting the government in power and increases apathy and could potentially lead to rebellion.

The above successes notwithstanding, there are still challenges in the fight against corruption. The challenges obtain in both investigation and prosecution capacity, which need to be improved, as most of the corruption cases are covert requiring sophistication in investigation. Fighting corruption is a concerted effort of the executive, legislature, the judiciary, media, and civil society . Some of the current challenges include:
4.1 Delay in the disposal of corruption cases
Establishment of a special division of the High court to handle corruption and to coordinate cases at the High Court to facilitate easy and quick case disposal was a move in the right direction. However, there is still lack of will and commitment on the part of government to enforce and support the framework in place to fight corruption by administering justice and bringing the culprits to book. The longer it takes to prosecute the corruption cases the higher the risk of losing evidence and interest from witnesses. The Judiciary has also been cited for occasioning delays in handling and disposing of reported and investigated corruption cases.

Many civil society organizations and individuals interested in the anti corruption agenda in Uganda are frustrated and in most cases lose track of corruption because despite successful investigations the cases keep being referred to future dates.
In the same way, the public has also lost faith and trust in the institutions that enforce the law.

4.2 Impunity by those involved in corruption tendencies
The institutions mandated to ensure ethics and integrity have stepped up their efforts in investigating and prosecuting the corrupt. However the policy has largely been hindered by the impunity exhibited by the high profile figures implicated in the misuse of public resources and causing gross financial loss that treat the mandated institutions with contempt.

Among the various individuals implicated in the many corruption cases, it’s only a few that have been successfully prosecuted inadvertently giving the impression that the enforcement framework eludes the “high and mighty” who constitute the most corrupt and those responsible for causing huge financial loss to the treasury.

This is a major challenge if the policy is to achieve a milestone in combating corruption in Uganda. Despite the legal framework and institutionalization of the policy, corruption seems to be on the increase because of impunity.

4.3 Popularizing of the policy and the enacted laws
Enacting the laws and responsive bills goes by far to show the government’s will to combat corruption, however there seems to be limited /inadequate popularization of the legislation to give room for the public’s full participation. The public is still not informed about the developments in the legislature especially the Whistle Blowers Act, client charters and the anti-corruption hotlines which would give the public confidence to report the corrupt cases. To date many people believe it’s the role of government to combat corruption because they aren’t informed of their roles and responsibilities as well as their rights.

4.3 Periodic declaration of incomes, assets and liabilities
Under the Leadership Code Act 2002, leaders are mandated to declare their incomes, assets and liabilities three months after commencement of the Act and for the newly appointed leaders that should be three months after taking the position and thereafter two years periodically. However while declarations have been made to a convincing level, with the existing gaps in verifying and monitoring of public servants’ assets/incomes, this law to curb corruption is constrained by the laxity to empower its enforcement mechanism. Further, efforts to make these declarations public have met high resistance.

4.4 Political will and Patronage
A number of influential figures on the executive have been implicated under various corruption probes for influence peddling and causing financial loss especially under the Temangalo, Global Fund and CHOGM probes. However because of political patronage many have avoided prosecution despite evidence gathered. A case in point is the investigations in the CHOGM scandal where the NRM caucus considered backing the implicated ministers. At least eight members of the cabinet were implicated for charges ranging from influence peddling, by passing procurement rules and inflating bills leading to a loss of approx. 270bn shillings. The prevalence of political patronage and partisan politics is inevitably undermining the legal and institutional frameworks against corruption.

4.5 Poorly enforced laws
Uganda has a systematic anti corruption strategy to deal with combating corruption for instance the Constitution, the IGG Act, Anti corruption Bill, the Leadership Code, and the whistle Blowers Act. However, because of the poor enforcement of laws, there is disrespect for rule of law and undermining of the legitimacy of the enforcing authority. There is also lack of proper, fair and consistency implementation of anti-corruption legislation due to political interference.

4.6 The policy is limited geographically
Due to the failure to conclude mutual bilateral agreements with other nations party to the UN Convention against Corruption, the Inspectorate of Government’s and Police mandate to ensure accurate income and asset declaration especially from leaders who invest in other countries s limited. The absence of such arrangements in investigations and proceedings gives room for illicit wealth to be transferred as investments in other nations.


5.0 Implications for Ant graft institutions

In light of the above, there are quite a number of implications related to the fight against corruption. These include:

1. Facts relating to e-governance and the world as a global village necessitate the need for preparedness for institutions to confront the new type of crime and fraud related to the new technology as well as the way computer forensics are handled. This applies to both as technological evidence and exhibits and consequently the complexity of cases related to it.
2. Management of whistle blowers and exhibits as well as witnesses should be a cause of concern to look at. Many a time, witnesses are not protected and because of the colossal amounts of money involved, the risks are so high that without protection the cases are lost outside ‘court premises’. Awarding mechanisms for whistler blowers and witness protection programs should be part of the process to ensure successful enforcement.
3. Institutions need to urgently train and be equipped to confront the fresh challenges. Limited understanding of the new laws (offences and penalties) by investigators and prosecutors is curtailing the fight against graft. This is compounded by the lack of skills and capacity by staff of member institutions to fight graft. Related to the above, limited knowledge and skills of other actors hamper the fight even when the case in point is evidently against suspects.
4. There is also still low level of adherence to service delivery standards and compliance to the rules and regulations of the regulatory bodies. For example, service delivery charters were introduced in three districts in Uganda and they such charters and integrity pacts in central government entities and other districts as well as to have an effective method of monitoring compliance and taking corrective action where necessary.
5. Institutions need to deal with inefficiencies in use of public resources. Government spends a lot of resources on different programs but in some cases the value for money in outputs is not visible. Weak inspection and monitoring by government create opportunities for corrupt officials to divert resources. There is need to strengthen monitoring and to increase citizens’ awareness and capacity to demand for accountability and monitor program implementation. The number of Value for Money audits should also be increased through the external audit vote function and sanctions should be enforced.
6. AC institutions often make recommendations to improve accountability systems but many reports are never discussed or adopted by Parliament. In other cases reports are considered after a long time which compromises the quality and advantage of taking timely corrective action. Enforcement should be as a matter of urgency pursued to ensure that the business of corruption is risky.
7. There is also increased social will and clear inadequate public participation and involvement in promoting ethical behaviour. All AC actors should jointly pursue preventive measures and establish a system to give corruption a human face by translating some of its effects in real terms.

6.0 Recommendations
1. Government in partnership with CSOs ensure popularization of the zero tolerance policy, the enacted bills especially the Whistle Blower Act and the mandated institutions that receive information on corrupt cases through public forum (seminars and dialogues), Media campaigns, and development of IEC materials for public consumption.
2. Urgent need for AC institutions to organize training meetings and capacity building sessions for the new laws and computer forensics both as technological evidence and exhibits and consequently the complexity of such cases in Courts of law should be addressed. Capacity to handle modern sophisticated and at times cross boundary crimes should be part of this initiative.
3. Studies should also be carried out to ensure provision of scientific and viable alternatives to bad governance e.g. Government vehicles, procurement delays, high administrative costs etc.
4. There is an urgent need to review and establish the current backlog cases related to corruption and to have a specific and detailed study on the application and implications of the new laws and systems.
5. There is also need to strengthen the linkage with CSOs and private sector so that the role of fighting corruption is not only left with government. This linkage should further be strengthened by creating a mechanism for evaluation of AC activities. This should also involve religious and traditional leaders.
6. CSOs should lobby and advocate for a faster disposition of corruption cases to end impunity. Demands should also be made to increase on political will since currently leaders ignore to implement recommendations of AC bodies
7. Strategies to increase public participation in combating corruption should be addressed. All AC actors should jointly pursue preventive measures and establish a system to give corruption a human face by translating some of its effects in real terms. For example linking health service delivery with the number of deaths would help the public to appreciate the extent of loss due to corruption.

END

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