Saturday, September 15, 2012

Emerging trends in Uganda-0n corruption

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 summarized below :

First of all is that 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! This presents an integrity crisis of Uganda and a big challenge for the church because moral values are no longer measured on the Christian ethic but rather finances irrespective of the means and the source.

Secondly, 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. It is argued that demands for bribes and the general prevalence of corruption hit the poor hardest. This is because the poor can least afford alternative services other than those provided by government, and so they suffer most when public officials demand for bribes as a precondition for the service or when public resources meant for service provision are diverted to private ends.

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. 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. This has facilitated the levels of impunity in administration of public services.

There has been a shift in the ‘middle age crisis’ from the previous 40-45 years age- group to that of 25-30 years. 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.

On investments, indeed an investment climate ridden with corruption drives away local and foreign investors because their business is constrained. Bribes increase the cost of doing business while at the same time they slow down business. Corruption can also mean that business firms with connections are shielded from competition thereby sustaining inefficient firms. It can generate economic distortions by diverting public investment into capital projects where bribes and kickbacks are more plentiful instead of projects that are the most beneficial.

The NIS III asked private entrepreneurs what constrains them from establishing business enterprises in Uganda and from their responses, the problem of high taxes was cited as the main impediment (59.4%), high electricity tariffs came second (39.9%), demand for bribes by corrupt officials was third (36.2%), while the long process of obtaining permits was also prominently cited (23.3%). This clearly portrays that corruption undermines economic development.

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.

Also, 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.

Corruption affects many lives of many Ugandans. Its effects are most severely felt by the vulnerable children, the elderly, women, girls, persons with disabilities. People affected by conflict are denied critically needed public resources such as medicine, water, sanitation, planting and stocking materials, justice, security, production tools etc because of corruption. Paradoxically, it is the vulnerable that often are unable to circumvent corrupt individuals and institutions because they cannot afford bribes and lack the voice to air their concerns. Corruption also impedes the improvement of the status of girls and women and should be fought by all .

Corruption is currently sky rocketing in Uganda because many believe that they have no control over the actions of public servants and politicians who behave as if they are entitled to reaping off the country. Corruption unfortunately is becoming acceptable behaviour in Uganda. Citizens with the help of the Church should rise up and refuse the corrupt and all its evils. The Government has continued to create a conducive environment for the Church and other Faith Based Organizations, Civil Society Organizations and the media to operate, the freedom to access public information has been enacted and one aimed at protecting the whistle blowers was passed into law this year.

2. The Inspectorate of Government (2008): Final Report: The Third National Integrity Survey (NIS III). Kampala: The Inspectorate of Government.
3. Henry Manyire, Socialization Processes and Patterns of Corruption in Uganda, Makerere University July 2008. Page 16

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