Augustine Ruzindana

Corruption in Uganda is of systems, processes and persons

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By Augustine Ruzindana

Posted  Friday, December 6  2013 at  02:00

This week Transparency International published the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2013 and Uganda with a score of 26 out of 100 points is ranked No.140 out of 177 countries.

How would you take it if your child brought home a report with an average score of 26 per cent? For people living in Uganda, this is not a surprise as the most covered topic in the media is exposure of scams at central and local government levels.

Most people just read the heading of media corruption reports, the details have become boring. Government officials will react to the CPI results by pointing out laws enacted, institutions created, some officials arrested but even this defence has become stale. Despite the laws and institutions in place corruption has become part and parcel of the system of governance.

It pervades all systems and processes, thus it is the norm rather than the exception. The carrying of sacks of money to Busoga and the brown envelopes personally handed out by the President are not only symbolic of paternalistic patronage but also of the fact that because corruption and theft have become so rampant he cannot be sure that if he sends someone else with a handout that it will be delivered in whole. This is the situation captured by the CPI.

There are no attempts to fight corruption anymore, though frequent statements against it have become routine. “Zero tolerance of corruption” is the official cliche. As evidence of the seriousness of these statements every now and then some individuals fall prey to discoveries and exposure, especially by the Auditor General, which then play out as sorts of soap opera entertainments as various committees of Parliament interrogate the unfortunate systemic scapegoats.

Every system needs sacrificial lambs if only to show the public or whichever relevant consumer that something is being done about the problem. I am invited to an event marking the 25th anniversary of the Inspectorate of Government on December 9 and I am sure I will hear serious statements against corruption possibly promising laws with harsh punishments but thereafter the situation will remain the same.

There are plans to introduce laws making it possible to seize and confiscate properties derived from corruption but even if enacted, like all other laws against corruption, they will not be enforced.

Corruption is of systems, processes and persons and yet even at the level of statements only corruption of persons is addressed.

Therefore, not much should be expected in the area of the fight against corruption as long as the current political order remains in place. It is a political order in which corruption is an essential element for survival, just as violent repression is another survival pillar.

Democratisation, the rule of law, respect and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and social justice are in the dust bin. Corruption has denuded service delivery in everything: health, education, utilities, road construction (new roads need repair as soon as they completed), salary and pension payments; payment for services not rendered is easier than payment for services delivered etc.

Elections, judicial processes, procurement of goods, services and works are subverted by corruption. There is political systemic and institutional capture by corruption. Corruption reigns supreme, it is not risky because existing laws are not enforced.

So how should we take such as arrests of soldiers serving in Somalia? First, since there have been no known arrests on similar charges with the country, the logical assumption or conclusion is that no such activities as alleged in Somalia take place within Uganda. Secondly, since Ugandan troops have been in Somalia for many years and the discovery of alleged corruption is recent, it means that these alleged corrupt activities are innovations of the arrested officers.

In the just published CPI 2013, Somalia is at the bottom, No. 177. Is it then possible that a force of thousands can live in the midst of corruption and remain untainted by corruption? If so, why has corruption just been unearthed with the specific officers affected?

Is it not possible that all along these activities have been taking place? Sometimes acts against corruption can appear selective if thorough investigations are not carried out. There is therefore need for more thorough investigations as this could be a tip of an iceberg.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.