By Joan Akello
Experts explain why the government should first focus on good governance
On June 26, the Anti-corruption Court in Kampala found the former principle accountant in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Godfrey Kazinda, guilty on 29 counts including fraud and forgery and sentenced him to five years in jail.
Then on November 7, in what should ideally have been good news for the anti-corruption fight, the 26 major development partners who had withheld aid to Uganda’s budget over the OPM corruption agreed to resume full support to government programmes.
The Minister of Finance, Maria Kiwanuka, told journalists that the donors were impressed by the array of anti-corruption measures the government had undertaken since 2012 when the Kazinda saga broke.
Among the changes is improved fiscal management with clear outputs, commitments on the use of oil monies, and a pledge to send all donor money to the accounts of direct beneficiaries.
Everything appeared to be going well until Dec. 3 when the global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2013 was released by international NGO, Transparency International. The CPI showed that Uganda had dropped 10 positions to rank 140 in 2013 from 130 in 2012. On the CPI, the higher the corruption, the higher is the ranking. Uganda best CPI rank was in 2010 when it was at 127.
The CPI is the most used indicator of the level of corruption in a given country but it is not a verdict on the level of corruption as it is based on perception not actual empirical evidence.
In Uganda’s case in 2013, the perceptions could have been influenced by the Kazinda case and that of the ministry of Public Service Pension Scam that had the former Permanent Secretary, Jimmy Rwamafa, and his accountants; Christopher Obey, David Oloka and others as suspects.
The failure by Uganda to shift the public perception of the level of corruption in spite of the clear efforts invested in curbing it has led some experts to question the government’s approach.
Focusing on mere piecemeal arrest, prosecution, and possible conviction of corruption suspects is the wrong approach, the experts say. Bringing the corrupt to justice is important, they say, but public perception of the fight against corruption could yield better results if the government pursued good governance generally.
Legal framework versus good governance
As the Vice President, Edward Ssekandi, said during the International Anti-corruption Day and the 25th anniversary of the Office of the Inspectorate of Government (IGG), the government has put in place an impressive legal framework to tackle corruption but the vice continues to spread.
He was referring to the establishment of the IGG’s office, the Anti-corruption Court, and the prosecution of top government official including former Vice President, Gilbert Bukenya. Although Ssekandi blamed the public who “glorify the corrupt because they at times benefit proceeds making it difficult to tackle the vice”, Augustine Ruzindana, who was the first Inspector General of Government (IGG) and is also a member of the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) Advisory Board differed.
“Corruption was not such a big problem in the 1990s as it is these days,” Ruzindana says, “Our system has degenerated…Corruption is not risky In Uganda and corruption is a symptom of all regimes that over stay in power.”
Cissy Kagaba, the executive director of Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) agrees: “Corruption has become a form of governance and if nothing changes; we will decline in the governance and corruption perception rankings until we the citizens rise up.”
“Corruption is part of bad governance. You cannot have a regime whose main defining factor is bad governance fight corruption because corruption is systemic and part of the survival means of the regime,” says Ruzindana. Ruzindana says corruption distorts good governance such as the administration of justice and delivery of services.
“Corruption is part and parcel of bad governance. This is a corrupt regime. Violations of human rights are not as pervasive as corruption hence a defining factor of the regime,” he says.
The anti-corruption crusader, Bishop ZacNiringiye says the correlation between corruption and bad governance is most felt at the level of service delivery.
“When service delivery fails, governance also fails because good governance is determined by the quality of the life of citizens in terms of education, health,” he says.
The retired cleric says the quality of life of citizens is at the lowest levels because public resources are not being used for citizens but for patronage and regime survival.
Bishop Zac who has this year led the most visible fight against corruption with publication of the Black Monday newspaper pointed at President YoweriMuseveni’s State House budget that has increased from about Shs 60 billion to Shs 200 billion.
He contrasts that with the budget for agriculture which remains meager although over 80 percent of Ugandans depend on it.
“Corruption is the evidence of bad governance. We have bad governance,” he says.
Corruption percentage index
The Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) – Makerere University in conjunction with the Inspectorate of Government (IG) in the first Data Tracking Mechanism (DTM) released in 2010 noted that because corruption is the result of poor governance, the fight against corruption is an integral part of improving governance.
The EPRC report noted that many governance projects which support improved public management also have an efficiency perspective, and their successful implementation will reduce the room for corrupt behaviour.
“The linkage between governance and corruption gives rise to another approach for classifying corruption indicators, an approach which involves the use of thematic areas of governance,” part of the report reads.
The DTM utilizes seven thematic governance areas which include: public sector management, formal oversight institutions and rules, citizens and firms, civil society and media, political governance, private sector interface, and decentralization and local participation.
Kagaba says, however, good governance cannot thrive “where corruption has become part of the rule of law”.
“Last year Uganda was ranked 130 and 140 this year. We saw the donors withdraw aid yet there has hardly been any action taken,” she says, “With our poor performance, corruption has increased. With the high levels of corruption, militarism is on the rise. The ruling party will be non-accommodative of dissenting views, something we have seen this year.”
Kagaba wants the government to focus on some specific components of good governance, especially transparency and accountability.
“The government says it does not have money to cater for salaries of teachers, but where did the money the president dished out in sacks and the Shs 1 billion the government pledged to give the Owino Market vendors come from?
“If we think by giving out money we will solve unemployment, the people are still fighting over the money the president brought for youths in sacks.”
Views expressed by Kagaba and others that make a direct connection between levels of corruption and governance have led to comparisons on how country’s perceived to be corrupt performance on governance rankings.
In the case of Africa, the governance ranking often used in these discussions is the Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
Mo Ibrahim Index
Uganda has shown marginal performance on the Mo Ibrahim Index as it has oscillated around the above average mid position over the last five years.
In 2008, Uganda was ranked joint 19th with Burkina Faso out of 53 countries with a score of 58.3%. That year, Uganda was behind its neighbours Tanzania at 15, Kenya at 17, and Rwanda at 18. The next year in 2009, Uganda was ranked 24 out of 53 countries. In 2013, it was ranked 18 out of the 53 countries ranked.
But Kagaba remains unimpressed. “Uganda is like a child who scored 50 percent five years ago, then 48 percent and recently 52 percent. This is more or less the same mark hence we are rotating with a better or worse grading of F (Failure),” Kagaba said.
A look at the Corruption Perception Index shows that Tanzania and Kenya consistently outperform Uganda. The only exception appears to be Rwanda which performs dismally on the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index but shines on the CPI.
In 2009, when Uganda was ranked in 130th position on the CPI, Rwanda was 89th with a score of 3.3. Tanzania was 126th with a score of 2.6, Kenya was 146th.
In 2010, Uganda was ranked 127th, its best position in the last five years with a score of 2.5. Rwanda was 66th Tanzania 116th, Kenya 154th, and Burundi was 170th.
Rwanda moved to 49th position, Tanzania to 100th, Kenya 154 and Burundi 172 in 2011 and 50th, 103rd, 139th and 165th positions in 2012 respectively.
However, Uganda dropped 13 places in 2011 to 143rd position then moved seven places to 130th in 2012. This year she was in the 140th position out of 177 countries surveyed in the latest report, ten places from the previous ranking.
In 2011, Uganda was ranked 20th in good governance in Africa. The index showed that Uganda had improved since the ranking was launched in 2007, moving from 25th to 20th. In 2012, Uganda’s overall score for governance was 55% higher than the Eastern Africa average of 51% and the continental average of 47%. Uganda was ranked 19th out of the 52 African countries ranked.
The changing and sometimes confusing ranks and scores point to another on-going parallel debate about the relevance of the perception-based CPI.
As the Inspector General of Government, Irene Mulyagonja, explained to The Independent, perception-based reports that corruption is increasing in the country could be deceptive.
“The 2012 perception index that shows that Uganda is the 46th corrupt country in the world was according to the grand corruption scandals last year but perception per se cannot inform whether corruption is going up or down,” Mulyagonja says.
But Ruzindana counters that “perceptions arise from the reality”.
“Most people know that there is corruption, only that it is difficult to prove it in court,” he says.