Corruption is not as un defeatable as we think.

It’s too early to give up the fight on corruption just yet.

By Alex Taremwa

alexkeillah@gmail.com

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The whole of this week, I was engaged in a series of research surveys by Not in my country, a Swedish funded project that is doing a lot to expose corruption in higher institutions of learning together with my own media firm The Transparent Magazine. Having understood the fact that these studies were centered in Central Uganda, Mr. Davis Weddi, the coordinator and I decided to extend the same to Universities in Western Uganda especially in Mbarara, Bushenyi and Kabale Districts.

My experience  from all the focus groups we met from all the districts above is that the students have witnessed corruption in their daily lives to an extent that they currently know that it’s impossible to fight the vice in Uganda. To them, corruption has managed to cultivate a permanent settlement scheme in Uganda that fighting it is as impossible as fighting to make the sun rise from the West.

In 2006, President Yoweri Museveni announced a policy of zero-tolerance for corruption. However, at the beginning of Museveni’s third term following the first multi-party (but not entirely fair) elections, most governance indicators show that corruption is perceived as widespread and endemic at all levels of society. Global Integrity’s 2006 report on the country estimates that more than half the government’s annual budget is lost to corruption each year, amounting to USD 950 million. (http://www.globalintegrity.org/reports/2006/uganda/index.cfm). Corruption scandals involving personalities close to those in power periodically hit the headlines. A former health minister and loyal supporter of the president, along with two deputies, have been charged with misappropriating USD 2 million from funds provided by the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) in 2005. (www.yigg.de/sonstiges/uganda-ex-ministers-arrestedin-corruption-scandal).

More recently, in 2007, the government circumvented official procurement guidelines to contract an unknown company, Kenlloyd Logistics, to replenish Uganda’s fuel reserves. The company was being run by the sonin- law of the foreign minister, who is himself related to the president. (http://report.globalintegrity.org/Uganda/2008/notebook)

Public confidence in government officials is severely affected by such scandals. A majority of citizens surveyed for the 2005 Afro barometer perceived corruption to be rampant. In addition, 36% of respondents to the survey believed that most or all government officials – whether at the central or at the local level – were involved in corruption. (http://www.afrobarometer.org/uganda.htm). Other empirical data corroborates this. The 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks Uganda at 130th place with a score of 2.6. Previous iterations of the index show that, despite slight improvements, the various sources of the CPI continue to perceive corruption as rampant and systemic in Uganda, with scores ranging from 2.1 to 2.8 between 2002 and 2007.

(Please see: http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/#myAnchor1).

Anti-Corruption Efforts in Uganda:

There has been tangible progress in establishing the required legal and institutional framework to counter corruption. But these efforts have yielded limited results, and recent developments raise doubts about the sincerity of government efforts to effectively address corruption. In some cases, government actions and decisions have clearly contradicted national anticorruption policies.

 

The Legal Framework

Uganda has a strong legal anti-corruption framework in place but faces major implementation challenges in practice. The Global Integrity 2008 report underscores this implementation gap – the country scores strongly in terms of the quality of its anti-corruption law and very weakly in terms of enforcement of the law.

Major anti-corruption legislation includes the Penal Code Act (PCA) and the Prevention of Corruption Act which criminalize the offering or receipt of bribes, with penalties reaching up to 10 years in prison. The Inspectorate of Government Act 2002 (IGG Act), the Public Finance and Accountability Act 2003 (PFAA), the Leadership Code Act 2002 (LCA), and the Public

Prosecution and Disposal of Public Assets Act 2003 further constitute Uganda’s legal framework against corruption.

Additional policy measures have translated into the adoption of a code of conduct for public officials (including wealth declarations), and measures aimed at promoting greater transparency in procurement and the management of public finances. Uganda has signed and ratified both the UN and the AU conventions against corruption, but they are not yet fully domesticated into Ugandan law.

According to a detailed 2006 TI study on the implementation of anti-corruption laws in Uganda, the country already has in place the necessary legislative measures to fight corruption but needs to strengthen measures on protection of witnesses, participation of civil society, criminal prosecution and sanctions, seizures and confiscation of property and financial records, and the payment of compensation. Important pieces of anti-corruption legislation are also still pending. (http://www.transparency.org/content/download/18030/244101)

Anti-money laundering legislation, though drafted, has not been presented for public review or to parliament.

The US Secretary of State Investment climate statement notes that although some officials expect this legislation to pass in 2009, others sources within the country believe that high-level officials are stalling the legislation because it could damage private interests who benefit from the status quo. Existing provisions on the protection of witnesses and informers need to be reinforced and strengthened. The long awaited Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2008, was drafted by the

Ministry of Ethics and Integrity last year and was tabled before the Parliament of Uganda earlier this year, as per Uganda’s commitment to do so in its 2007 Millennium Challenge Corporation Anti-Corruption Threshold Country Plan3. According to the above mentioned Transparency International report from 2006, legislative and other measures in Uganda on international cooperation and mutual legal assistance are limited. When they do exist, they are outdated and not tailored to countering corruption.

 

The Institutional Framework

The legal framework has laid the ground for several anti-corruption institutions such as the Inspectorate of Government (IG), the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Auditor General (AG).

 

1. The Inspectorate of Government (IGG); The IGG was established in 1986 and has developed into an independent public office in charge of protecting and promoting human rights and the rule of law in Uganda. It enforces the LCA and the IGG Act, and also functions as an ombudsman, with the power to investigate, arrest and prosecute corruption cases, abuses of authority and public office. It has established Uganda USAID and the Department of Justice are currently implementing the two-year $10.4 million threshold program designed to strengthen the capacity of Uganda’s anti-corruption agencies and enhance prosecutorial efforts as a hotline through which the public can report corruption cases anonymously. The inspector general is appointed by the president. Though past criticism has focused on an apparent reluctance to address corruption cases involving high ranking officials, the IGG has lately taken a stronger stance, as demonstrated by the investigation of Solicitor General Lucien Tibaruha over alleged abuse of office. The IGG’s effectiveness, however, has been hampered by a lack of qualified staff and sufficient funding. Its independence has also been questioned and IGG recommendations are rarely followed-up by parliament or by the executive. The IGG has also experienced difficulties in implementing asset declaration provisions, as many members of parliament have refused to submit income information.

 

2. The Directorate of Ethics and Integrity (DEI); the DEI was also established in 1986 with a view to coordinating government efforts against corruption through the Inter Agency Forum. Within its mandate, DEI has acquired considerable resources and materials on ethics and corruption in Uganda and has established a resource center. In June 2004, it launched a four year strategy to combat corruption and rebuild integrity in public office, aiming at improving the coordination of existing laws and at involving the public in anticorruption efforts.

 

3. The Inter Agency Forum; The Forum is chaired by the DEI and is composed of Uganda’s major anti-corruption institutions, including the judiciary and the police. It has been established to ensure effective coordination of agencies on corruption issues and has allowed inter-agency dialogue in the design and implementation of national anti-corruption strategies. However, a lack of funding and capacity has constrained its effectiveness.

4. The Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP); The DPP has a mandate over all prosecutions in the country, including cases of corruption and bribery. It does not have the power to conduct investigations, but it can direct the police to investigate any information of a criminal nature and initiate criminal proceedings against any person in any court except a court martial. The DPP works in close collaboration with the Police Criminal Investigation Department and with the judiciary. Its director is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the public service and with the approval of parliament. It is not perceived to be a corrupt institution but faces major capacity challenges.

 

5. The Auditor General (AG); The AG audits and reports on the public accounts of all public offices, as well as those of local councils. It submits audit reports to the parliament and other relevant authorities at the local level. Yet the institution appears to be largely ignored by the executive and lacks resources and capacity to conduct thorough audits at the local level.

 

6. The Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA)

 The PPDA is an independent agency established in 2003 that sets the rules and regulations for procurement. Open domestic bidding methods is the rule and sole sourcing is legally limited. The PPDA publishes procurement guidelines, open opportunities, contract awards and other related information on its website, provides advice, guidance and capacity training, while also monitoring and evaluating compliance. It has the power to blacklist corrupt providers and maintains a list of suspended providers.

A register of providers has been established to ensure that data is available and open to all stakeholders involved in procurement processes. The PPDA has also introduced a complaints mechanism. In spite of its comprehensive mandate, the PPDA, like many other government institutions, is both under-staffed and under-resourced. According to Global Integrity 2007, blacklisted companies have sometimes been able to circumvent disciplinary measures, including by bribing their way into bidding processes. (http://report.globalintegrity.org/Uganda/2007). In spite of a relatively strong legal and institutional framework, the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts is hampered by the general lack of coordination of understaffed and under-financed institutions. The general lack of government actions and follow up on anticorruption agencies’ recommendations questions the political will to effectively address corruption challenges in the country.

 

Assessment of Anti-Corruption Efforts

Despite some positive aspects of its legal and institutional framework, recent corruption cases and political developments in Uganda indicate a lack of political backing for the implementation of anticorruption reforms. Constitutional amendments that allowed the third presidential mandate, corruption challenges in the defense sector, insecurity in the north of the country, as well as several unresolved cases of political corruption are seen as signs of the government’s declining commitment to anti-corruption reforms.

Political decisions have, in some cases, been made in clear contradiction of existing anti-corruption policies. In

2003, for example, the IGG recommended sacking a presidential advisor on political affairs for refusing to declare his wealth under the 2002 Leadership Code Act. The latter took the matter to court and got the president to swear an affidavit in his support. The case was taken further to the high court, on the grounds that the Leadership Code had given more power to the IGG than to the president. The high court finally nullified the IGG decision on this account, undermining its powers to order or recommend to the president disciplinary measures.

 

Other Anti-Corruption Initiatives

Despite fears that recent political developments leading to the election of President Museveni for his third mandate may restrict freedom of speech, limit public participation opportunities, and jeopardize public accountability and transparency, non-governmental actors have taken up the challenge of countering corruption in Uganda.

Civil Society; the right of association is guaranteed by the constitution and Uganda has a vibrant civil society that addresses politically sensitive issues. According to the Bertelsmann Foundation report from 2008, however, civil society organizations are vulnerable to legal restrictions such as the manipulation of registration requirements or to provisions that can be used to interpret CSO activities as detrimental to state security and interests. Many civil society organizations are involved in anticorruption work. The Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) is an umbrella group of about 70 CSOs seeking to curb corruption and eradicate poverty. The ACCU organizes an anti-corruption week every year in December and began in 2008 the “Name and Shame” book, where civil servants convicted for has a chapter in Uganda, which is active in advocacy around the implementation of anti-corruption laws and conventions, public policy monitoring, and the organisation of trainings and workshops.

The Uganda Debt Network (UDN) is a coalition of NGOs, institutions and individuals formed in 1998. It focuses on lobbying debt relief and advocacy for pro-poor policies. It also monitors use of public resources and ensures borrowed and national resources are managed in an open, accountable manner.

 Media

As for freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom of the press, these are guaranteed by the constitution. An independent print media is, at times, highly critical of government. Recently, however, the government has shown signs of growing intolerance towards independent media and has supported legislation restricting press freedom. There have also been instances where journalists have been selectively harassed when opposing NRM officials. The Worldwide

Press Freedom Index 2008 ranks Uganda 112th out of 195 countries and refers to the media landscape as “partly free”.

 Parliamentary Approaches

There have been recent initiatives to strengthen the role of parliament in the fight against corruption. Uganda was one of the first chapters of the African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption Uganda Chapter (APNAC) established in Africa in 2000. It mainly focuses on networking and advocacy, especially with regard to the implementation of the UN and AU anti-corruption conventions. A Parliamentary Budget Office has also been established to strengthen the capacity of the Parliament Account Committees (PAC) to carry out its budget oversight responsibility. As budget processes are overly complex and Members of Parliament (MP) often lack the technical capacity to fully play their oversight role, Uganda has created an independent Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) which supports parliamentarians throughout the budget process with expertise, analysis and reports on key budget related issues. (http://www2.gtz.de/genderprsp/english/papers/working_groups/Hannington_Ashaba_3A.pdf)

The Institute of Corporate Governance of Uganda (ICG) The ICG has developed guidelines with minimum standards for corporate governance that are based on the OECD and the CACG standards. The institute raises awareness about corporate social responsibility and fraud through workshops and lectures.

Part 3: Sources and Further Reading

 Sources of Data

  1. African Development Bank & OECD: African Economic Outlook – Uganda 2007
  2. Afro-barometer: Summary of Results 2005
  3. The Bertelsmann Foundation: Transformation Index – Uganda 2008
  4. Freedom House: Freedom in the World – Uganda 2008
  5. Global Integrity: Uganda Country Report 2008, 2007 and 2006
  6. PPDA, IGG & USAID: National Public Procurement Integrity Baseline Survey 2006
  7. The World Bank & IFC: Doing Business 2009
  8. The World Bank & IFC: Enterprise Surveys 2006
  9. The World Bank & IFC: Investment Climate Assessment – Uganda 2004
  10. World Economic Forum: The Global Competitiveness Report 2008-2009
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