Time is now for Ugandans to rise against the cancer of corruption

Wednesday December 28 2011

By Christine Byiringiro

We must reflect upon our individual and collective effort towards the elimination of corruption from our midst. According to well documented World Bank statistics, Uganda loses an estimated Shs500 billion per year to corruption. And yet yearly, Ugandans continue to die because of the effects of corruption – in the form of poor service delivery.

In May, the media reported that Middy Acen and Eunice Acola had died in Lira Regional Referral Hospital due to a severe blood crisis that had hit the medical facility.

In August, Sylvia Nalubowa died in Mityana Hospital from complications of an obstructed labour as the hospital lacked a doctor to carry out a caesarean operation that could have saved her life. Another mother, Jennifer Anguko, also died in Arua Regional Referral Hospital in December 2010 due to a uterus rupture following 15 hours of obstructed labour.

There were deaths of more mothers like Cecilia Namboozo who could not be attended to at Mbale Referral Hospital because she could not afford about Shs300,000– more than her monthly teachers’ salary.

While the NRM government has demonstrated its intention to fight corruption, through its rich anti corruption legal framework, the issue of political will remains a matter of serious concern. The government deserves credit for such laws as the Anti Corruption Act, 2009, the Public Finance and Accountability Act, 2003, the Budget Act, 2002, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, 2003, The Access to Information Act, 2005, The Whistleblowers Act, 2010 and the Penal Code Act Cap 120.

In addition, the government has also established institutions such as the Inspectorate of Government, the Anti Corruption Court, and the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity to lead the graft fight.

However, the same government has remained dead silent as its top lieutenants continue to dominate the list of officials suspected of involvement in huge corruption scandals. In addition, key government institutions and agencies have perennially topped the list of the most corrupt institutions, including the Police, Judiciary and district local governments.

Uganda is also a signatory to the UN Convention against corruption and ratified the AU Anti- Corruption Convention but ironically is one of the top corrupt countries. As Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga recently said, corruption has reached a crisis level. A recent Transparency International Index on corruption ranked Uganda among the most corrupt nations in the world – and second worst in East Africa!

Government efforts towards elimination of corruption must include a policy to improve salaries of government workers. The Police and teaching remain the least paid professions. Is it therefore a surprise that such institutions like the Police perennially top the list of the most corrupt agencies? The government faces an uphill task defending its leadership failures as it superintended over one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Ms Byiringiro works at Uganda Debt Network