Saturday, November 9, 2013

Perceptions matter and are factual-Police shut up!


I have read the article by David Lumu titled ‘Police is to investigate corrupt talk’ The New Vision 31st Oct 2013, where Police wants to engage an independent body to probe reports that the institution is the most corrupt in the country. This absurd statement was attributed to Mr. Okoth Ochola, the Deputy Inspector General of Police who insinuated that the only way to change the public perception is to investigate the process of the survey and challenge it to eliminate ‘public misnomers and perceptions that the force is the most corrupt in East Africa’.

He may be forgiven for trying to doubt whether the institution, he heads is the most sick-he is a lawyer and hence I may doubt his research skills but for Mr. Edward Ochom, the director of Police research to state similarly thus ‘…..the bad thing with perception is that ‘people don’t differentiate between a court bail and police bond. They see a person out on a court bail and they think that it is police that has released this person because of corruption’…. is neither a true perception nor professionally explicable.

The East African Bribery Index 2013 conducted in the five East African Community member states — Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania- is a survey that measures the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and departments around these countries. It is an index that focuses on perceptions and not hard data, then a reflection of views of experienced observers, such as country analysts and business people. It checks on how people experience corruption in a certain period of time.

Highlights of the perception index are to do with use of indicators of bad governance. It uses indicators that point to something about the state of governance or corruption in a country. These indicators “combine” different sources of information into a single measure that gives a ‘perception’ about a sector, institution or a department under: that the public perceives to be corrupt or corrupt prone. Diagnostic survey on the other hand goes for measurable and actionable indicators like how much was a bribe, or amounts involved in grand corruption scandals and whether the one who bribed was helped?

The survey aims at establishing institutions where respondents sought services in the preceding year (12 months) and if they encountered bribery situations. This information is brought out by questions on which institutions-( public and private)-the respondent interacted with in the preceding 12 months while seeking services and whether a bribe was expressly demanded or expected during the interaction. It further asks whether the respondent paid the bribe where it was demanded and if the services they sought were delivered either upon paying or refusal to pay. The survey results are then analysed along five study indicators: likelihood, prevalence, and impact of bribery, share of national bribe and average size of bribe.

The main purpose of such is to create public awareness of corruption within sectors and how it is perceived outside by potential users; and this should arouse public debates to create a climate for change within. It also offers a snapshot of the extent of the corruption problem so as to enhance comparative understanding of levels of corruption and trends over time. For example Police to date has been among the top corrupt institutions for a period of over twelve years (since I began taking interest in these surveys) and honestly, instead of defence the question should be why Police for all these periods? Is it only Transparency International (TI) that gives this picture?

These perceptions could also be a precursor and motivator of new research and complementary diagnostic analysis on causes and consequences of corruption for example in the Justice sector. So, instead of spending on any resource to refute such an index, researchers in Police should help and find why it is ever, their department implicated. Let their findings address internal changes. Indeed it will be interesting in terms of which department (other than Traffic which is known) is perceived to be more corrupt so as to create systems changes.

Apparently, Mr. Ochola has totally misrepresented the above intentions and argues that:... “We have resolved as Police to engage an independent body to undertake for us a survey on those allegations of corruption in order to avoid these perceptions,”… This is (un)fortunately what the survey is not for. It is not an in-country diagnostic tool to offer analysis on causes, dynamics or consequences of corruption and hence not a tool to draw simplistic analytical or policy conclusions nor to design policy actions for country reforms. It is a perception and therefore a tool for reflection on why even after some changes services like Police are not appreciated.

So, for Ochola to state that the conclusion by the Transparency International 2013 bribery index report that the Ugandan Police is the most corrupt in the region ‘is not acceptable’ and that it was based on “perception” and not solid research and assessment is risible in the least and ridiculous in fact. He assumes too much and seems to be aware of what is happening to other states compared to our motherland situation.

I have traveled along the EA boarders by road and by air. I recently-two weeks ago-traveled in a bus that operates in the region we passed seven check points with an overload of passengers and each stop was just to facilitate pay of a bribe without any question. When I interviewed the conductor why he is paying (5,000 UGX), he told me that even if you have no overload, it is to help you move quickly and that failure to pay will make them delay the bus for more than thirty minutes checking and moving around. (By the way this happened at Sanga near Kampala during Easter this year, I was in the bus that whose driver was arrested because he had made a return trip, when I confronted the traffic police he told me so but others were passing and leaving behind a package…. We spent two hours with Rwandese who were welcomed to the pearl of Africa in a Ugandan way…). Conductors get an average of 100,000 per trip mainly for the Ugandan Police; details will be later in a paper am publishing on benefits or the goodness of corruption in institutions like Police where salary can delay for two months!

On the same journey, when we reached one of the check points the bus conductor threw the money down on the ground as the Traffic Police nodded, many passengers laughed at Uganda… I could not; and the absurdity of picking bribes like chimps fighting for mangoes thrown from a moving vehicle hit me hard! I swallowed hard and wished that instead of these Police chiefs moving in vehicles armed with sirens they would quietly enter a bus and observe what happens-may be then they would throw in the towel-knowing the temerity these bribe takers have in broad daylight and the shame of Uganda…. Does this happen else -where in EA? Yes, but not as direct.

I write this painfully, because somewhere there are friends of mine in Police who are clean and are fighting all forces of darkness to work decently. But of course those are very few and are to be most pitied. Why? Because I know (I don’t suspect) many of their colleagues that use cases as ATM cards- in fact every Friday you will find Civil Servants in ministries that are under investigation doing similar acts in order to get money to pay Police so that they frustrate investigations. I wish somebody could also investigate all imports for just one year from China in the name of Uganda Police…. Why do we seem to deny the obvious?

Mr. Ochola apparently admits that there is corruption. He states that; ….“we have found it pertinent to put some things right. Although it is not in dispute that bribery exists in police, the report should be thorough in terms of methodology and literature review. What they have done is to do random surveys of a few individuals and then compile a report on the perceptions of these people,”… this is a similar argument advance by the IGP last year and this year. What they would be doing is simply to build systems that prevent abuse and taking action against perpetuators rather than them re-writing the book of lamentations- in fact Prophet Jeremiah becomes an amateur when you see some of their eulogies.

He states that he after the 2012 bribery index report that ranked Police highly on corruption, Police called Transparency International for a meeting. But that they (TI) refused, again, for those of us who are in the know, he is telling lies- not that the meeting was necessary anyway. What he should be doing is to do a more methodical survey and as stated earlier may be that will only help him to see that the survey after all is not as bad- and it would help him to shape up or shut up or simply shut-up and shape out.

He wants Police to get involved in the survey. He laments thus: “Now, they have released another report without our involvement. Transparency International is not serious. What criteria did they use? Who did the interview? Their report is more of a posture than substance. It is meant to justify donor-funding,”… what I know is that we have had three National Integrity Surveys by IGG an arm of Government and the lamenter should simply re-read them. I participated as a supervisor in one of them and that helped me to appreciate the problem some of these institutions are faced with and why reform is no longer a question except to those who benefit.

I would continue but sometimes it is hard to advise those who are drowning and they behave as if they are in a swimming pool. East African Bribery Index 2013 put corruption by sector in Uganda as Police (1), Local Governments (2), Land Services (3), Judiciary (4) and Licensing Services (5). The discussion should be what do we do with these sectors rather than whether they used proper methodology. Mr. Ochola should know that even if a ‘bad’ methodology identifies you as bad then you are far from being good. He should know that we are really tired and angry!


Statistician working with the Anglican Church Kampala

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