Corruption in Uganda has become endemic and systemic. Public funds are misused by those entrusted with responsibility to use it for the good of citizens.
A report released last week by the Inspectorate of Government and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) at Makerere University found that Ugandans had paid Shs166 billion in bribes last year.
Both grand and petty corruption thrives in Uganda. Colossal sums of money are being embezzled by high-ranking public officials while lower cadres extort money from the public in exchange for service delivery. In 2011, the World Bank estimated that Uganda was losing more than $500 million a year through institutionalised corruption.
Uganda has over the years established laws and systems to fight corruption. By 1970, the Prevention of Corruption Act (1970) had been enacted; then the Inspector General of Government Statute (1988), the Anti-Corruption Act (2009) and the Enforcement of the Leadership Code of Conduct Act (2002) were also put in place. There is also the institution of the Auditor General, the Police CIID, the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit, Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Anti-Corruption Court and PPDA Act, among other institutions tasked with combating corruption.
However, even with numerous legal frameworks and institutions for fighting corruption in place, detection and prevention of corruption, as well as enforcement of anti-corruption laws, has been weak.
The reason for this failure is largely an apathetic public that is often given to corruption tendencies. A large section of the public has condoned corruption and bribery in one way or the other. This is clear in the EPRC report which lists police, district administrations, public officials, schools and town councils as the most complained about government departments.
If we want a corruption-free Uganda, we – parents, guardians and teachers – must instill values of honesty, transparency and discipline in our children so that they grow up knowing that corruption is an unacceptable behaviour.
Eliminating corruption starts at individual level. We cannot hold our leaders accountable if we, the citizens, are promoting the vice we supposedly detest.
More importantly, the government should take note of key issues the EPRC report raises: the current challenges faced by the Ombudsman in trying to fight corruption, especially limited manpower and the shortage of funds. Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka’s pledge to increase funding to the IGG to fight graft is commendable. We await the fulfilment of this promise.