By Gerald Padde Auku
Citizens, government must appreciate the fact that fighting corruption is a collective responsibility
Uganda is one of the countries with a very good institutional framework in place to fight corruption. However, in the 2014 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Uganda was ranked 142 out of 174 countries with a score of 26. Uganda, though, registered significant improvement at the East African level rising from the most corrupt to now the third-most corrupt with Burundi taking lead as the most corrupt followed by Tanzania.
The fight against corruption is not a one man’s or one institution’s role but rather a collective responsibility. Developed countries such as Denmark (92%), New Zealand (92%), Finland (89%), Sweden (87%), Norway (86%) ranked as the least corrupt in the world and our neighbor Rwanda, currently ranked as least corrupt in Africa with the score of 49% (CPI 2014), attained these tremendous marks through collectiveness and citizens being vigilant and cognizant of the responsibility they have in the fight against corruption.
Currently, the fight against corruption in Uganda seems to have been left to institutions mandated by the Constitution to fight graft like the Inspectorate of Government, Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Department, Directorate of Ethics and Integrity, Public Accounts Committee, Directorate of Public Prosecutions among others. Accountability NGOs like Transparency International Uganda and the media come in to complement though their efforts are often frustrated by the government.
If we are to achieve results in the fight against corruption and improve our ranking globally and regionally, we ought to be exemplary and take responsibility on decisions. This should be seen right from the lowest unit, which is the family level, up to the highest political office. I applaud the Uganda Revenue Authority for the work well done in establishing mechanisms for building ethical values within and outside the institution. Currently, URA has a fully-fledged Internal Audit and Compliance Department (Integrity department) that is responsible for receiving and investigating complaints, disciplining culprits and referring those that cannot be handled internally to courts of law.
In fact, they now engage other professional bodies such as lawyers, engineers and other organs in the private sector to appreciate the importance of building internal mechanisms in their institutions. If this model is taken on, owned and implemented by all institutions, then we would be talking less about corruption.
The citizens on the other hand are equally important in the fight against corruption. They, being the consumers of government initiatives, should collectively come up to demand for accountability from their leaders at all levels and this can only be achieved if there is active involvement and participation right from the beginning. Studies have shown that an empowered and informed society can never look on as public funds are being misappropriated. This can be seen in developed countries such as US, Denmark, Sweden, and United Kingdom to mention but a few.
When we talk about high level citizen participation and vigilance, Uganda has not yet reached where it should be. Citizens should for example participate in the launching of all government projects at all levels. This will enable them to acquire basic information about the project, which would in turn help them to do the monitoring. This model has worked well for Transparency International Uganda in areas where it implements its projects for example in Greater Masaka region specifically in Lwengo District. Due to the vigilance of the community as a result of TIU work, a contractor was told to re-construct the teachers’ quarters in one of the schools. This was because the people had information about the deliverables.
The government should therefore harness the available actors such as the CSOs, media, academia, local and cultural leaders as well as the private sector in the fight against corruption. President Yoweri Museveni is spot on when he says that “African problems should be solved by Africans.” In the same way, Uganda’s problems should be solved by Ugandans. This can only be achieved through recognizing every one’s role and responsibility and diverse strategies of working together rather than blaming each other when things go wrong.
Gerald Padde Auku the Programs Officer at Transparency International Uganda (TIU) .