It disturbs when you are doing serious work only to find a black out due to power. This is Uganda where many politicians fail to own up to their deeds and instead look for scape goats. An Executive with such problems when he/she has to meet deadlines has one option to fix solar power. A part from servicing it, it is the solution to corruption ridden tendencies in poor countries like Uganda where some of our leaders use office for own gain at the expense of the masses.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
THE ROLE AND EXPERIENCE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST CORRUPTION IN UGANDA.
Statement by Civil Society presented to the Consultative Group Panel discussion on Corruption, Kampala, 14 – 17th May 2001.
Corruption is not unique to Uganda. Indeed is now recognised as a serious and pervasive international problem with diverse political, economic and social implications. Corruption affects small as well as large business. It affects the rich as well as the poor. It affects small poor countries as well as rich countries. However, for the big business and rich countries, the effect could be in gains to their economic well being. For the poor people and poor countries, the effect is adversely negative leading to economic stagnation, political instability, increased social inequality and marginalisation. Corruption affects economic growth as it distorts the costs of business transaction thus making lessening profits and making their services very expensive to the detriment of economic development in poor countries.
Who perpetuates corruption?
Although this list is not exhaustive, it is observed that the following institutions and groups of people perpetuate corruption:
a) Large international business corporations and their representatives who monopolise and control world trade and are interested in making quick and large profits from their investments irrespective of the effect their actions. They pay bribes to procure contracts for the supply of goods and services.
b) Senior government officials and politicians who are in charge of decision making and implementation of policies in their countries. They are for instance responsible for contracting for loans and privatisation of public enterprises, procurements for goods (e.g purchase of vehicles and equipment, uniforms, helicopters etc) and services (police, judiciary, tax collectors, health workers etc). Thus they bend all the rules to ensure that they serve their personal interests to the detriment of the economic and social development of their countries. GREED is the epitome of their work.
c) Donors and foreign governments who prefer to keep a closed eye even when they know that senior officials in government are not capable of presenting proper accountability for the money they spend. Foreign government have justified their support for rogue governments (Marcos, Mobutu, Suharto) on flimsy excuses such as fighting communism (today it is terrorism) even when they know such leaders are siphoning off large chunks of borrowed resources to foreign capitals.
d) The poor people in the poor countries who are victims of such greed for economic power and unaccountable government officials who are compelled to pay a bribe for the goods and services they receive. Corruption perpetuates their poverty and makes them more vulnerable to the individual interests of greedy and poorly paid public officials.
What has civil society done to fight corruption in Uganda?
Civil Society in Uganda has used a combination of approaches in the fight against corruption:
i. Public Education and sensitisation by Non-Government Organisations and other Civil Institutions of the public. Organisations such as Uganda Debt Network are presently carrying countrywide mobilisation of the people at the grassroots to demand accountability from public officials and resist corruption at all levels. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), however, lack the necessary resources and capacity to carry out extensive public education programmes on a sustained and long term basis.
ii. Media Campaigns and information dissemination. Without the media in Uganda corruption would not have been become a hot political issue in the recent presidential elections. The proliferation of FM Radio stations has boosted the campaign against corruption. However, radio stations have to be paid to carry out public education campaigns thus hampering information dissemination. Government decision to charge high license fees and taxes for community radios e.g those broadcasting in the local languages, should be reviewed and abolished.
iii. Increased research – Universities such as Nkozi and Makerere University have established research centres or incorporated corruption studies in their teaching programmes.
iv. Civil Society Organisations have formed an Anti-Corruption Coalition (ACCU) to organise jointly in the against corruption. Over 40 such organisations are members of the coalition. Every year, ACCU organises an Anti-Corruption week in October countrywide.
v. A Centre for Corporate Governance has been established to ensure ethical behaviour for Corporations in their business dealings.
vi. Civil Society Organisations have consistently campaigned for the improvement in the delivery of social services. Although a lot of money is being spent annually in areas such as health, education and others, these are also the same places where service delivery is terribly poor. For instance UPE money is diverted without any action taken against culprits, yet UPE is one of the most important pro-poor programmes of the NRM government.
vii. Civil Society Organisations are involved in the Monitoring of the Poverty Action Fund (PAF) through which the funds from debt relief and other donors are being channelled to eradicate poverty. Grassroots structures, Poverty Action Monitoring Committees (PAF/MCs) composed of local community people have been established in over 15 districts in Uganda.
viii. Civil Society Organisations have also set up the budget Advocacy Initiative (BAI) to ensure that budget allocation and expenditure are pro-poor.
ix. Civil Society Organisations are presently engaged with government to discuss coordination between them for effectiveness in the fight against corruption.
The civil society and all other initiatives need moral, financial and material support from government, donors and other institutions to carry out their work. Universities need money to carry out research and investigate the corruption scourge and its impact on political systems, economic development and social inequality. This would in turn help government review its accountability procedures and systems on a continuous basis.
Government Actions against corruption
On the basis of experience from our involvement in the fight against corruption, we want to emphasise that corruption is an institutionalised problem. This is because government officials involved in perpetuating corruption are senior officers who are also very influential. It is to be noted that large-scale corruption has taken place in government departments and the perpetrators have either been promoted or have been retired with their full benefits without causing an investigation to establish the facts. This has tended to send a wrong signal that Government lacks the political will to punish corrupt officials. It is also noted that even where reports by Auditor General and Commissions of Inquiry have implicated public officials, in most cases no action has been taken against them thus making such institutions appear useless. In some cases they have been publicly vilified by sections influential organs of government such as Members of Parliament when they try to do their job.
a) Government should be commended for the action against senior Police Officers resulting from the Justice Sebutinde Commission although it was delayed for over one year. We await punishment for those who amassed wealth from misuse of office and public resources.
b) The Government should also be commended for establishing a Judicial Commission of Inquiry chaired by the Eminent Lady Justice Julia Ssebutinde into the supply of junk helicopters in the Ministry of Defence. The commission’s findings should be used on the one hand to establish the facts since we believe and know that this only the tip of the iceberg. On the other hand, it should be used to develop open, accountable and transparent systems for procurements not only in the Ministry of Defence but in all government ministries and departments. There is no need to hide behind classified information that is available on the Internet in the present era of the information age.
c) The enactment of the Anti-Corruption Action Plan was welcomed by civil society organisations and the media as a way forward. However, since then there does not seem to be serious actions to implement it. If it is being implemented we do not have evidence of this as most of the anti-corruption agencies such as CID do not share information about their activities.
d) The Inspectorate of Government (IGG) has done a commendable job. However, it is poorly resourced. It lacks the financial and human capacity to make an impact on high level corruption involving senior government officials and politicians and while collar corruption or internet and computer based corruption.
e) The Directorate of Ethics and Integrity was established to among other things “co-ordinate anti-corruption agencies” headed by a Cabinet Minister. However, to avoid political compromise, in future the directorate should not be headed by an elected representative.
What needs to be done?
• Civil Society Organisations have demanded for the establishment of an Anti-Corruption Tribunal headed by a competent person to deal quickly and decisively with corruption cases, recover stolen money by attaching and selling properties of culprits and putting the money back in the public coffers.
• The enactment of a Public Information Act (or Open Democracy Act as in South Africa) by Parliament should be put on top of the policy agenda in the next Parliament. This will enable the public and the media have access to vital and critical information on critical areas such as public expenditure. It will also instil discipline among the public officials who like to hide behind slogans such as “Top Secret” or “Confidential” while they are engaged in mischief.
• Government should review the role of the anti-corruption agencies with a view to strengthening them. Our concern is that there are too many and the central questions is whether the multiplicity of institutions is a facilitator or a hindrance to the fight against corruption. At the moment they are too many and poorly resourced to have impact. For instance sections of the Police CID should be merged with Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) so as to hasten investigations. And the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) should play its rightful role of inspection and enforcement of government rules, procedures and regulations such as the leadership code and government standing orders.
• The most perverse corruption is in the procurement of goods and services where government looses billions of shillings every year. Rules for the behaviour of International Corporations should be more stringent. An International Anti-Corruption Tribunal should be established to deal with corruption across boarders (The Global Forum on Corruption in the Hague at the end of May should be asked to approve this resolution suggested by the petition Civil Society Organisations).
• The policy of decentralisation should be reviewed to ensure that only high calibre personnel are employed in financial and administrative management positions at the district level by guaranteeing their tenure of office and stopping local councils from interfering in the recruitment of such persons.
• Donors, foreign government and international business corporations have more often been accomplices to corruption in poor countries. They should equally adhere to good practices of doing business. In addition they should help in the building of effective accountability systems that are open and transparent in governments where they operate through providing support for institutions such as the IGG and training of high calibre personnel to investigate corruption.
Coordinator, Uganda Debt Network