What you need to know:
- Uganda’s current context demands deliberate policy measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the land sector. Globally, Uganda is ranked 142 out of 180 with the score of 26 percent as per the Corruption Perception Index, 2022.
Uganda’s development agenda envisions “a transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country” by 2040.
This is conceptualised around opportunities in the sectors such as oil and gas, tourism, minerals, water resources, industrialisation, and agriculture, among others. These being land-based sectors, it is undebatable that good land governance is a prerequisite for the realisation of the country’s development aspirations.
Good land governance is underpinned by several principles, including transparency, accountability, and integrity. Collectively, these principles require uniform service delivery standards, clear processes (workflows, timelines, and fees), accessible complaints management and whistle-blowing systems, confidentiality, etc.
Uganda’s current context demands deliberate policy measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the land sector. Globally, Uganda is ranked 142 out of 180 with the score of 26 percent as per the Corruption Perception Index, 2022. For the land sector, every third respondent to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer (2013) stated that they had paid a bribe to access land services.
Similarly, the East Africa Bribery Index (2017) recorded that 54 percent of respondents in Uganda indicated that paying a bribe was the only way to access various land services. The message here is direct: Uganda still falls short in fighting corruption generally and that land administration and management is one of those sectors in which corruption is prevalent.
Yet, nearly two decades ago, Uganda ratified the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption both of which recognise corruption as one of the obstacles to the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights.
Whereas Uganda has enacted several anti-corruption laws supported by various institutions like the Inspectorate of Government, Anti-Corruption Court, among others, corruption remains persistent in Uganda.
In the land sector for example, the media reported how the Commission of Inquiry on Land Matters unearthed several corrupt practices, including the mismanagement of government-owned land and misuse of the Land Fund.
Recently, there were media reports on issuance of land titles on forests as well as double titling of land. Corruption allegations have also manifested in the valuation and compensation of project-affected persons arising out of activities in the oil and gas sectors.
All these and many more incidents point to inadequacies in the anti-corruption laws to deal with corruption in the land sector.
This comes with dire consequences for both men and women in their quest to access land services.
The ever-increasing cases of land conflicts in the Judiciary and other dispute resolution mechanisms, delays in land registration, challenges with compulsory land acquisition, disputes arising out of valuation and compensation, etc. demonstrate the effects of land corruption.
This is has resulted in unlawful evictions, displacement, and landlessness.
Given that the 2013 National Land Policy did not tackle the issue of corruption, it is, therefore, prudent that as the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development develops a new National Land Policy, it should recognise corruption as a contemporary land governance issue.
With this recognition, the policy should then be able to prescribe a raft of measures to provide detailed guidance and infrastructure to detect, investigate and punish the vice in the land sector.
The writer works for Transparency International Uganda