Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The problem of corruption in Uganda: The role for UACE

The previous article mentioned the general framework against corruption and this now specifically touches of the role of professional bodies like UACE and as the nation grapples with how to tackle this malaise; such bodies are not only important but given where we have reached, I believe they are the only way out. I suggest the following ways:

1 UACE can help to reduce delay in the disposal of corruption cases
Establishment of a special division of the High court to handle corruption and 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 professional bodies like UACE to enforce and support the framework in place to fight corruption by administering justice and bringing the culprits to book through provision of professional evidence or free advice on how to adduce and present evidence connected to engineering. In most technical cases Government is bound to lose just because of lack of this.

The longer it takes to prosecute the corruption cases the higher the risk of losing evidence and interest from witnesses. The engineering profession has been cited for occasioning delays in providing technical input as well as handling and disposing of reported and investigated corruption cases related to the profession. Many are concerned that most cases lose track because despite successful investigations there is totally no professional backup.

2 Popularizing of the policy and the professional codes
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. Further still professional bodies like UACE have codes that are unknown to the public.

To date many people believe it is the role of government to combat corruption because they are not informed of other bodies like UACE whose roles and responsibilities are also linked to the fight as a preventive mechanism. What if UACE punished its professionals and also guided on clear work procedures and methods? Uganda would have been a better place for investment and development. As part of UACE’s duty their input cannot be avoided.
3 Periodic declarations 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. UACE can be of great help to verify the assets and also to offer various ways in which the anti-graft agencies can professionally handle real estate assets that are under investigations. Further, efforts to make these verifications will be part of the UACE’s priorities.

4 Poorly enforced laws
Uganda has a systematic anti corruption strategy to deal with combating corruption for instance the Constitution, the IGG Act, Anti corruption Act, the Leadership Code, and the Whistle Blowers Act etc. 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 and lack of professional advice. The low level of compliance with sector rules, regulations and standards has been attributed to the lack of information on the service standards, limited monitoring of service delivery; professional misconduct (like in collapsed buildings and the watchful eye of UACE) and limited application of sanctions to errant public officials.

5 Poor demand for accountability
The level of public involvement is a key in determining the quality of accountability and Value For Money (VFM) in service delivery which impacts the utilization of public resources in the long run. UACE has professional capacity to advise and also carry out VfM audits. The Government of Uganda has established financial systems to improve standards of accountability. However, one of the key challenges for the sector is poor culture to demand accountability among Ugandans.
Previously, Accountability in Uganda had been pursued from the supply side and without support from bodies like UACE, thus service providers were at liberty to provide any kind of accountability to financiers without citizens’ opinion or professional input about the validity of the accountability. This is partly due to the low level of awareness by public about their rights to demand accountability for services delivered to them and limited consciousness of bodies like UACE to support such initiatives. This is further compounded by limited access to required information (financial releases, work plans, progress report etc) at the lower local councils and mistrust of bodies like UACE with capacity to interpret the engineering data. The information deficit currently creates a sense of powerlessness and apathy and prevents people from making the connection between public resources and their right to services and accountability.

6 Limited capacity by institutions
There is a clear limited capacity due to inadequate staffing and high staff turnover in some if not all accountability institutions that affects the execution of their huge mandates and thus a bottleneck that requires innovative approaches. The professional bodies like UACE need to create a strategic approach to capacity development that will have a long-term and substantial impact on the ability of the anti-graft sector members. Framework agreements that require bodies like UACE to committee themselves should be drawn.

7 Lack of definitive collaborative framework
The UACE is made up of individuals of different mandates, considering the diverse roles and mandates of the various members, the creation of the such a body was to have a common focus through which coordination, cooperation and information sharing among the members’ core members and key stakeholders could be enhanced in the promotion, supervision, as well as implementation of accountability systems, in the realizing of efficient and effective planning and delivery of services in Uganda.
However lack of definitive collaborative framework to compel sector institutions to work as a unit to attain national accountability goals has impeded the progress of the Sector. The lack of effective coordination has affected sector priorities to be identified and supported by Government and International partners as well as other stakeholders like UACE.
In conclusion, UACE’s role cannot be over emphasized. The earlier they wake up the better. UACE therefore has a serious problem as far as promoting and fulfilling their professional role is concerned role in this era of individualism and corruption. So the only call is for UACE to shape up and wake up!

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