Kampala- Fighting corruption, fixing the problematic health sector and providing jobs, top the issues that Ugandan voters want the next president to tackle first, results of a new opinion poll show.
The research, whose findings were released on Thursday, was commissioned by Monitor Publications Limited and conducted by Kenya-based Infotrak Research and Consulting firm and its Ugandan partner, Tango Consult, from December 6 to December 9, 2015.
In it, voters identified youth empowerment as a matter of higher importance for the next president to tackle head-on than, say, both education and infrastructure.
Uganda’s 35 million population is predominantly youthful, which could explain the high interest in their empowerment and the fact that the nature of investment in young people will inevitably shape the country’s future.
Two out of every 10 of the 1, 500 registered voters who were interviewed mentioned “fight corruption” when asked: “Which one issue would you wish the next president to address as a matter of priority?”
A World Bank official estimated in 2005 that Uganda each year lost up to $300 million (about Shs1 trillion at current exchange rates) in corrupt transactions, and Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index report released in December 2014 ranked the country 142nd of 175 countries, a slip by two places from the previous year’s ranking.
“Bribes and backroom deals don’t just steal resources from the most vulnerable, they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in government and leaders,” the report says.
Before technocrats in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) swindled billions of shillings in 2012 for various government programmes, other outstanding corruption scandals in Uganda included the 2005 diversion of $4.5 million (about Shs15 trillion) from the Global Fund meant for malaria and HIV/Aids care and about $800,000 (about Shs2.6 trillion) plundered from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation in 2006.
Although many government officials have been prosecuted in the specialised Anti-Corruption Court, with some already convicted and serving their jail terms, corruption is still rampant in public institutions and agencies.
On Tuesday, the Minister without Portfolio Abraham Byandala, who was previously Minister for Works, and five others were committed to the High Court for trial on charges of fraudulently influencing the contract for the Mukono-Kyetume-Katosi road works and causing government a loss of Shs24 billion.
President Museveni, during both campaigns of 2006 and 2011 elections, pledged a zero-tolerance-to-corruption agenda. However, the proclamations have not yielded tangible impact in checking corruption in government institutions, despite the several anti-corruption agencies that have been set up.
Almost an equal number of men and women interviewed in the Daily Monitor poll want the next president to focus on reducing corruption, surprisingly with many more people in rural than urban areas holding that view.
What the youth want
Younger people, aged 18-20, dominate other categories of people demanding an end to corruption, which was the least priority issue among the 41 to 45-year-olds. Persons in the 21-40 age-bracket combined, evenly want corruption to be addressed as the priority by the next president.
People in northern Uganda (34%) identified corruption as the topmost issue for the next president.
People in northern Uganda were the most affected by the 2012 plunder of Shs60 billion in the Office of the Prime Minister, which money was to rebuild their region after decades of the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency.
Two out of every 10 voters interviewed in western Uganda, the home region of the three main presidential candidates, shared similar thought. The lowest number (12%) of the respondents who presented fighting corruption as a top issue was in Kampala metropolitan, which combined the city, with neighbouring Wakiso District during the research.
How the poll was done
The poll was done by the Kenya-based firm Infotrak Research and Consulting firm in conjunction with Tango Consult, a Kampala-based firm. Infotrak “also has a hub office for West Africa in Lagos Nigeria and field contacts in more than 20 other countries in Africa”.
Tango describes itself as an “applied market, socio-econ-legal research and consultancy company founded by Ugandans, South Sudanese and Kenyan professionals”. It is registered both in Uganda and South Sudan.
Data collection was done between December 6 and December 9 among a sample of 1,500 respondents who were selected randomly.
Data collection was done using face-to-face computer assisted personal interviews at the household level. 25 per cent of those interviewed were called back to confirm that the data collectors actually interviewed them.
The data collectors registered the Global Positioning System grids of the households of the interviewees in 75 per cent of the cases. In the remaining 25 per cent, the GPS grids could not be read because of either mountainous terrain or rainy weather.
The sample size of the respondents, all of them being Ugandans of voting age, was determined according to Uganda’s voting population which is estimated at over 15m. the sample, according to the pollster, translated into a minimum margin of error of minus or plus 2.53 at 95 per cent level of confidence.
The survey was conducted across all the regions – northern, eastern, western, central and Kampala Metropoltian, which was taken to comprise Kampala and Wakiso districts. Interviews were conducted in a total of 48 districts out of Uganda’s 112 districts.
The number of respondents picked per region was based on the relative percentage of that region’s population vis-a-vis the national population total. The gender distribution of the respondents was 53.7 per cent female and 46.3 percent male.