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Corruption gets worse

By Haggai Matsiko

Museveni blamed for protecting culprits

Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, the head of the most corrupt institution in Uganda, is a lucky man. President Yoweri Museveni keeps praising him even when two reports have pinned the police as the most corrupt institution both nationally and regionally in a space of two months.

“President Yoweri Museveni has no interest in fighting corruption,” says Robert Lugolobi, the country executive director Transparency International.

Cissy Kagaba, the Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda agrees. She says Museveni is all talk and no action in fighting corruption.

“You can see this in the way his re- appoints and defends people that have been implicated in corruption,” Kagaba says, “ the corruption in the police goes back to the issue of the former being institutionalised. If people who are in high offices close to the President are taking bribes and getting away with it what about the police who are reeling under poor conditions?”

The Independent’s focusing on the police was prompted by two reports that have pinned the police as the most corrupt institution both nationally and regionally in a space of two months.

To write this story, The Independent requested interviews with several high ranking police officers, including IGP Kayihura, but were rebuffed.

Such impunity could be contributing to the increasing corruption in the force.

Generally, however, the Corruption Perception Index 2011 released this month shows that Uganda is the third most corrupt country in the East African region after Burundi and Kenya. Rwanda and Tanzania are “cleaner” than Uganda.

There is nothing new there, in terms of ranking. However, the actual performance on a scale from zero for most corrupt to 10 for cleanest country, Uganda is the only country in the region where corruption is perceived to be increasing. This year Uganda scores 2.4 down from 2.5 last year while worst performer Burundi scores 1.9 compared to 1.8 last year. Rwanda is at 5.0 up from 4.0, Tanzania 3.0 and from 2.7, Kenya 2.2 from 2.1.

At this rate, Uganda could, excepting Burundi, be ranked as the most corrupt country in the region in the next few years. This would affect its rating as an investment destination. In 2008, the cleanest country in the region, Rwanda, was just 0.4 points ahead of Uganda. It is now 2.6 points clear of Uganda.  In 2008, Kenya was 0.6 points behind Uganda but is now just 0.2 points behind. Although TI warns not to rely on past data for comparisons such as this, an obvious negative perception trend is emerging for Uganda that must be addressed.

Uganda has recently been rocked by a number of high profile corruption scandals reported in the media, another number of investigations have been done, and there are number of prosecutions for corruption in the newly established Anti-Corruption Court.  However, TI says these indicators in fact measure different indices. TI says they may be indicators of the level of freedom of media and expression, efficiency of the judiciary. Instead, the index treats perceptions as a more reliable measure because acts of corruption are usually hidden.

Uganda’s points man in the fight against corruption, Ag. Inspector General of Government Raphael Baku told The Independent that the vice has new forms. He gave the example of the judiciary.

“People lodge fictitious cases with the aim of doing what they call settlement out of court knowing at the beginning that there was no case at all,” he said.

Institutionalised vice

In an earlier report, The East African Bribery Index 2011 by Transparency International (TI), the Uganda police surpassed Kenya by claiming the number one position. Kenya police was the most corrupt in 2010.

Other countries covered by research include Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. Uganda is worse than all countries in all measures except education where Liberia and Sierra Leone are worse.

In another report, the Second Annual Report on Corruption Trends in Uganda: Using the Data Tracking Mechanism by researchers from the Makerere University based – Economic Policy Research Centre launched on Nov. 15, the number of households that have paid a bribe to police personnel has increased from 53% in 2009 to 79% in 2010.

Of the people interviewed by TI, 61 percent believed that the government is not committed to the fight against corruption.

The TI index also showed that 68 percent of the people interviewed felt the incidence of corruption in Uganda has increased in the last one year.

About the same number, 65.6 percent believed corruption would increase in the next one year. And more than half of the people sampled or 51.3 percent regarded Uganda as being extremely corrupt. So why is the level of corruption rising in Uganda?

Why more corruption?

“Corruption is on the rise because it is not risky to take a bribe in Uganda,” says Lugolobi, “We do not have service charters for people to know what to expect and as such service delivery is at the discretion of public servants, so people have to pay bribes to access health care, justice, name it.”

Lugolobi says in such situations bribery is unavoidable because it is cultural. “People do not expect anything from the state without paying a bribe,” he told The Independent.

But when The Independent talked to one of the police officers on conditions of anonymity about why the police were increasingly taking bribes, he pointed at poverty and the government’s wrong priorities.

“A police officer who is deployed every now and then to quell riots, sleeps in poorer conditions compared to prisoners and gets less than Shs 300,000 at the end of the month?” he said. “Some of us are professional but why won’t someone be forced to take a bribe?”

Corruption in the Uganda Police is not new. In 1999, President Museveni appointed Justice Julia Sebutinde to head a Commission of inquiry into corruption in the force. The Sebutinde report to government in May 2000 recommended improving staff welfare and punishing culprits as solutions to the problem. But little if not nothing has been done about these as the report collects dust.

Officers still earn about Shs200, 000 which is not even half the Shs600, 000 what Sebutinde recommended for the least paid constable ten years ago.

Under Kayihura, the government’s budget on police has gone up dramatically from Shs 190 billion in 2008 to Shs 300 billion in 2011/12 Financial Year.

However, the police officer says, most of the money has gone to equipment and not staff welfare. Today the officers are driven in nice buses, have several uniforms but no money in the pocket.

Before elections, Kayihura paraded a fleet of anti-riot vehicles and equipment that have since been used to battle incessant demonstrations. Some of these antiriot vehicles are stationed at riot prone areas, city roundabouts and markets to scare protesters.

“These cost the government a fortune yet the same government spends peanuts on my welfare,” a police officer said.

But police is not the only institution where corruption is increasing. The TI survey shows that bribery has gone up in the health, the judiciary and education sectors.

“The findings show that the percentage of Ugandan citizens who claimed to have paid a bribe to access medical services rose from 33 in 2009 to 49 percent in 2010,” the report notes.

Regionally, bribery in Uganda’s health sector is three times worse than Ghana and Kenya, the report notes.

The health sector is followed by education. The report shows that the number of people that paid bribes for education services has gone up from 15 to 36 percent.

The situation is worse with the judiciary which is one of the institutions that are supposed to curb corruption. The report indicates that the percentage of homesteads paying a bribe to judicial officers has also gone up from 34 to 59 percent.

Kagaba says that the judiciary is taking bribes because that is how the system works. “People pay off the police and when they reach the judiciary, they also pay them off because the system is the same,” she says.

Feeling the pain

The report points to weak investigative capacity by anti-corruption agencies such as the police, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the anti-corruption court as the biggest challenges in the fight against corruption.  Lugolobi says that the way the DPP prefers cases against people without prima facie evidence is pathetic.

As a result, the report notes that majority of the suspects are set free even after they are arraigned before courts of law. This is why the number of corruption cases closed due to lack of sufficient evidence is high.

“The critical outcome of weak investigation is that a case does not result in prosecution, notes the report, “This has been an area of great frustration to many Ugandans.”

The report shows that of the 18 cases lodged by the Police’s Criminal Investigations Department, in 2007, none was convicted, two were withdrawn and 16 are still ongoing.

In 2009, of the 77 cases only three cases were convicted, eight withdrawn, fourteen were dismissed and 48 are still ongoing. In 2010, of the 76 cases, 58 are still ongoing, six were convicted and eight were dismissed.

“Many times, the police have lost cases in court they ought not to have lost,” the report noted, “The Government Analytical Laboratories have had their fair share of limitations in serving the entire government forensic needs.”

According to Lugolobi, police is busy with political activities. “If you look at the police, all the money is spent on anti-riot gear, the government has not showed much interest in the CID, they have not reinforced it. I am sure this even reflects in the police budget,” he said.

The IGG is also a victim of poor investigations. For instance, In 2010, the IGG handled a total of 4,422 complaints but 3,351 were carried from the past. There were only 1,042 new complaints. Of all these, only 557 were investigated and completed.

Lugolobi says that following recent developments, the IGG and the entire fight against corruption seems to have lost sense.  He was referring to the dropping of charges of abuse of office against former Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, the granting of bail to three top government ministers, Sam Kutesa, foreign affairs minister and father in- law to President Museveni’s son, Col. Muhoozi Keinerugaba. The other ministers are Mwesigwa Rukutana, the state minister for labour and John Nasasira, the Government Chief Whip.

Lugolobi said that “setting these people free” did not only make the IGG look controlled, it demonstrated that the government’s priorities are not in fighting corruption. “People have lost the little confidence they had because there are no efforts to teach culprits a lesson , the fight against corruption lacks vibrancy,” he said, “with the oil debate, the President made matters worse by intervening to protect the suspects.”

Parliament recently resolved that implementation of oil deals signed between government and foreign oil companies be halted until a legal framework was put in place, confidentiality clauses be expunged and that the three ministers alleged to have taken bribes from oil company Tullow resign but President Museveni has frustrated the MPs efforts by defending the ministers.

Lugolobi added that the rise in corruption boils down to one thing – lack of the political will to fight it. He says that when the IG was established in 2002, it was designed to have an IGG and two deputies, today one person Baku does the work of the three people.

“There are about 200 officers that are supposed to come up with a minimum of four reports per year, making it 800 reports, how do you expect that one man to keenly look at all these reports?” he asked, “the fact that president Museveni has not appointed an IGG shows that it is not in the government’s interest to fight corruption.”

Ali Munira, the Public Relations Officer, IGG says that institution’s skilled labour is insufficient. She says that each of the IGG’s 15 regional offices handles an average of eight districts yet most of them have a maximum of five officers.

In 2010, many cases were taken to the Anti-Corruption Court that it became apparent that the capacity of the Court needed to be improved substantially so that it can deal with the increased demand for its services,” the report notes.

Of the 83 cases forwarded to the anti-corruption in 2010, only 16 were convicted, 11 were withdrawn, 17 were dismissed, 9 acquitted and 30 are still ongoing.

An IGG report recently indicated that Uganda loses Shs 900bn a year to corruption, up from Shs 500bn in 2006.

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