Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Types, forms and causes of corruption Part I.

I have been somewhere facilitating on the causes of corruption and I think it is one of the issues we shall keep grappling with because the real causes are as wide as corruption itself and as obscure as its definition.

HOWEVER after reading some of the literature including from my friend Leon Nkurunziza who is still working within an office that he is beyond- allow me to pen some of the ideas reflecting well at the Ugandan situation where corruption thrives and as well where it can be used as an example of 'bad governance' - if such word exists.

First of all in defining corruption Transparency International focuses on it as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. For Uganda the definition contained in Section 2 of the Inspectorate of Government Act 2002, is taken as “abuse of public office for private gain and includes but is not limited to embezzlement, bribery, nepotism, influence peddling, theft of public funds or assets, fraud, forgery, causing financial or property loss, and false accounting in public affairs.”

For the purpose of this paper, I have chosen to use the my own definition that takes corruption as any action done in private or public that diverts resources from the intended and wider public good for private purposes. In other words you do not have to be caught or seen to commit that act.

Corruption has various types/categories that include:

Petty or survival corruption practised by poorly paid public servants, and grand corruption which involves theft of vast amounts of public resources. It is also categorised into political, corporate and even moral corruption. In whatever way you look at it, corruption has an element of moral breakdown; the corrupt ignore acceptable practice and put their needs above the needs of the public.
However in my write ups i will be categorizing it as thus:
Business corruption and Political corruption(corporate and moral corruption)
Systemmatic and Unsystematic (Organised or Un organised) and
Petty or Grand corruption ( I will write about this in due couse in detail)

However some of the forms in which it manifests include:
Embezzlement: The act of dishonestly taking or using resources by persons entrusted with authority and control over those resources. It is theft of public resources (softened by calling it “misappropriation of funds”).
Bribery: The promise, offer or giving of any benefit that improperly affects the actions or decisions of a public official. A bribe may be money, inside information, gifts, entertainment, sexual or other favours, a job, company shares, etc.
Nepotism: The act of giving unfair consideration to family members and/or relatives for appointment to the public service, award of contracts from public resources and the benefit resources at the expense of other members of the public. Cronyism (favouring friends) and Patronage (favouring supporters) closely relate to this.
Influence Peddling: Participation by public officials – in the course of their official work – in a decision in which they have private interest or from which they stand to gain (directly or indirectly).
Fraud: Deliberate deception and this is usually through forgery.


The story of how corruption thrives in Uganda has not only been captured on the international stage but on the local scene as well. TI has for the last 16 years ranked Uganda as a very corrupt nation in its CPI. The Inspectorate of Government, which is constitutionally mandated to fight corruption and promote good governance in Uganda, has undertaken National Integrity Surveys that have among other things helped to portray the incidence of corruption and administrative injustice in public offices.

The third National Integrity Survey (NIS III) whose report was published in 2008 established that bribery is the most prevalent form of corruption across the country (according to 66% of the respondents), and this was attributed largely to greed (according to 69.4% of the respondents). The report noted a number of emerging issues on the corruption scene as summarised below :
i) Corruption has evolved as an acceptable and coveted way of life. People who quickly amass wealth through corrupt practices are glorified while those who uphold principles of integrity and moral values are ridiculed!
ii) New forms of corruption have emerged, with ‘Syndicate Corruption’ and ‘Management by Crisis’ the most prominent. The former involves networks of strategically placed public officials who connive to embezzle public funds with impunity, and the latter involves deliberate delays in planning in order for public officials to create a crisis and an excuse to stampede the procurement process. Creation of psychological fear so as to extort money is also emerging as a way in which corrupt officials prey on the public; normally they connive with other partners to fabricate felonious charges against a “suspect” with the aim of instilling fear which they exploit to extort bribes.
iii) Demand for, and payment of, bribes are no longer secret or covert but are overt actions. Public officials openly ask for bribes in exchange for services, and clients openly pay without complaining.
iv) There has been a shift in the ‘middle age crisis’ from the previous 40-45 years age-group to that of 25-30years. This has resulted from peer pressure among the young generation who want to live flamboyant lifestyles that are more common in the private sector. Thus they are encouraged to live beyond their means and they engage in acts of corruption in order to sustain such lifestyles.
v) Payment of bribes is the major impediment to both domestic and foreign direct investment in Uganda. The implication of this is low investment that results into low employment and lack of livelihood options.
vi) While Government has put in place institutions and measures to fight corruption, the dilemma remains weak enforcement of existing laws and weak operations of the existing institutions. There have been cases of imbalance between political interests and enforcement of the fight against corruption, as well as constraints of inadequate cooperation from the general public in reporting corrupt practices and standing witness in court against corruption suspects.
vii) Corruption is increasingly getting sustained by nepotism through a process described as the “Corruption-Nepotism nexus”; public officials, especially at District level, persistently recruit people only from their local areas – irrespective of the qualifications of candidates – with the aim of creating a social network that shields their corrupt practices.

To be continued.

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