By Ellady Muyambi
I was compelled to write this article in response to an article titled “Case against Muhwezi, Mukula resumes” by Anthony Wesaka that appeared in the Daily Monitor of July 20, 2011. This article reveals that if the judiciary continues to behave the way it is doing now, then corruption will never end in Uganda.In previous years, several high-profile government tenders for infrastructure projects were suspended due to allegations of corruption. The judiciary and other anti corruption bodies are understaffed and underfinanced and this affects their ability to effectively enforce the legislative framework against corruption.
In spite of Uganda’s initial reputation as one of the most successful reform-oriented countries in Africa – widely heralded by the international community to the NRM government – corruption still remains widespread at all levels in the country.
Political patronage and favoritism further characterize the Ugandan administration, with NRM patronage reaching the private sector. In local government bodies, giving jobs and contracts to relatives or supporters is today normal practice. This has accelerated Poverty and inequitable distribution of income in the country.
In 2006, President Yoweri Museveni announced a policy of zero-tolerance for corruption. However, at the beginning of Museveni’s third term following the first multi-party (but not entirely fair) elections, most governance indicators show that corruption is perceived as widespread and endemic at all levels in the country. Global Integrity’s 2006 report on the country estimates that, more than half of the government’s annual budget is lost to corruption each year, amounting to USD 950 million.
The 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks Uganda at 126th place with a score of 2.6. Previous iterations of the index show that, despite slight improvements, the various sources of the CPI continue to perceive corruption as rampant and systemic in Uganda. A 2006 Freedom House report denounces widespread patronage and corruption in Uganda’s government. Public procurement is one of the sectors most affected by corruption in Uganda. According to the 2007 African Peer Review Mechanism Report, Uganda loses USD 258.6 million annually through corruption and procurement malfeasance. The report further estimates that if the country could eliminate corruption in public procurement, it would save USD 15.2 million a year.
The US-Department of State Investment Climate Statement 2009 also notes that Uganda government’s procurement particularly for defence items is not transparent. The 2006 World Bank-IFC survey indicates that close to half of the firms questioned expect to give a gift to secure a government contract. Companies further report the gift value to amount to approximately more than 5 percent of the contract value.
Auditor General Reports indicate that procurement accounts for 70 percent of public spending, of which an estimated 20 percent is lost via corruption. In June 2008, a senior World Bank official stated that high level corruption in procurement deals had been responsible for a loss of USD 300 million since 2005. He added that 70 percent of government contracts were not awarded according to established procedures, while half of the national budget is spent on procurement deals.
To curb corruption in Uganda, there is a need for the current government to demonstrate a strong political backing for anti-corruption efforts through increased financing to the anti corruption bodies as well as none interference by the political heads.
Ellady Muyambi is an advocate for constitutionalism and sustainable development.