There is no agreement on what exactly causes corruption in Uganda. It is also difficult to know whether corruption is caused by one or a combination of factors. While arguments advanced to explain the causes of corruption vary, the causes can be reduced to the following according to National Integrity Survey 2008 (NIS III):
Greed is without doubt one of the major causes of corruption, especially in the cases of grand corruption. People who are well paid and even already wealthy will, out of greed, embezzle public funds simply because they want more and more wealth. For some, the motivation is borne out of the need to sustain extravagant lifestyles. As already noted, the third National Integrity Survey of 2008 established that bribery is the most prevalent form of corruption in Uganda.
It has been argued that corruption is a result of low incomes that people in the public service earn from their salaries. Police is argued to be corrupt because of low payments. Lack of job security was cited by respondents in the third National Integrity Survey as a cause of corruption. The state of housing and lack of clear social security mechanism for workers drive them to steal.
There is also a tendency in Uganda to treat rich people as heroes or celebrities within their local communities and nationally, and this goes on without questioning the sources of such wealth. The corrupt, it can be argued, are motivated by this, while at the same time it is ironical that the poor (or less well-to-do members of the society) are either not bothered or they are the ones hailing the rich even when public resources have been used to the private gain of the same rich “heroes”.
It has been suggested that corruption increases when the risks involved are lower compared to the benefits to be gained. Lack of stringent punishment was cited by respondents in the third National Integrity Survey as one of the reasons for prevalence of corruption in Uganda. People who have stolen a lot of money are given soft punishments and penalties are not commensurate to the amount and hence corruption is not a risky business.
When there are no mechanisms in place to apprehend the corrupt and bring them to book, corruption abounds; thieves wantonly plunder public resources, even to the extent of “kleptocracy”. Quite often the corrupt have benefited from high-level protection from prosecution. This has caused what many observers call impunity.
When morals disintegrate to an extent that there is no care for what is right or wrong in society, corruption thrives. This may also come with a culture of “it is not my business”. The church in Uganda indeed has a big challenge that should focus in rebuilding the moral fibre so that corruption is shunned.
Politicians and other aspirants for political office bribe their way to power, and this produces leaders of questionable character. Ultimately such leaders will not be concerned to protect the interests of the people they serve but rather will care more about offsetting the debts they incurred to get elected.
The act of public officials favouring family members and relatives known as nepotism at the expense of the wide public can deteriorate into a culture. This form of corruption ends up appearing acceptable – many people end up looking to cater for the interests of their own. Indeed today it is common for many people to employ family members without passing through the due process.
There is also the danger of failure of systems that is encouraging illegitimate withdrawals from public coffers and demands by public officials of a cut of payments they make to service providers. It is encouraged that in the emergency of Information Communication and Technology mechanism for payments, facilities like water, electricity, NSSF etc should be paid through technology to minimize contact that encourages bribery and extortion.
It is also argued that it is easier to divert resources from a large centrally controlled pool and go undetected than from smaller decentralized control centers. Large organizations have now adopted decentralized computer systems that have helped control fraud. Therefore centralized control of public funds/resources systems should be discouraged.
Many persons are appointed and they spend a long-time at work in the same position. This may create relationships inside and outside the government which encourage and help conceal corruption and favoritism. Rotating government officials to different positions and geographic areas may help prevent this. Kampala Diocese has began doing this for the clergy as now it is known that one cannot remain in one position for over four years.
When the public starts to think that corrupt practices such as “small” bribes demanded by, say, the police or nurses are normal, it not only encourages but it worsens the practices. In the course of time, services that are supposed to be free will not be provided unless some money is paid. The third National Integrity Survey also noted the emerging trend of bribes becoming no longer secret but open transactions.
Also in a system where whistle blowers are not protected, they will be harassed by corrupt officials and they will fear to report future cases. This can only help to increase the vice. Therefore, all available mechanisms to protect witnesses and whistle blowers should be made to help increase on reported cases.
When people do not know what resources their governments control and how those resources are used, they will not realize it when the resources are mismanaged or embezzled. Ultimately the people will not demand for accountability from the leaders. This lack of knowledge could be because of a government system that is inherently not transparent or a deliberate plan by those in government to keep the people in the dark. (For lack of knowledge, a people perish!). This also relates to lack of capacity by civil society and Faith Based Organizations (Church) to monitors the government or where the civil society and private sector are sidelined from participating in public decisions or barred from scrutinizing government decisions.