Activists explain how new slogans helps fight the growing vice
Kampala, Uganda | MUBATSI ASINJA HABATI | On December 9, President Yoweri Museveni joined the new Inspector General of Government (IGG), Beti Kamya, after she persuaded him to launch the lifestyle audit, a new anti-corruption drive spearheaded by the Inspectorate of Government (IG).
Kamya said it is her attempt at catching the big people involved in corruption.
“People have been telling us we want the big people charged with corruption. People are saying we are tired of the mukene being arrested for corruption. We want the big fish,” she said.
“The problem with getting the big fish is lack of evidence because when they discuss their deals they rarely leave loose ends. In most cases, the courts say you did not prove beyond reasonable doubt and they are set free. This is after investing a lot in investigation. That’s why we are now emphasizing lifestyle audit.
“I may not be able to catch stealing the money but I know that you earn this much from your salary and yet your children go to a luxurious school, you own property whose value way beyond your known income, there we come to you to account,” she said.
Slap in the face
In the lead up the December 9 Anticorruption Day, President Museveni asked religious leaders to preach against corruption. His reasoning was the corrupt come from society and even go to places of worship where they give offerings and participate in other church/mosque fundraisers. Yet the money they offer is stolen from public finances.
Sceptical Ugandan have since focused on the remarks President Museveni made after Kamya spoke. Museveni said Kamya was clever but he cautioned her to tread carefully.
“We are still lucky that our corrupt people are corrupt here, they steal the money, and put it here, you see a five-star hotel from corruption. Now if you only concentrate on the lifestyle, then they will take the money out and you will have no evidence here,” Museveni said.
Museveni’s remarks have been interpreted as a slap to the face of the new IGG who has been speaking tough against corruption given that now she is the chief government ombudsman/woman. Before Kamya was appointed the IGG, the Inspectorate had been running an asset, income and liability declaration campaign under the leadership code which requires all public servants to declare their wealth as a way of fighting graft.
And there have been several other anti-corruption slogans like the famous Kisanja Hakuna Mcheza initiated by President Museveni as he was sworn in after the 2016 elections.
Each year, anti-corruption agencies come up with anti-graft slogans. Some these slogans and campaigns include, “Ending corruption starts with me”, Promoting Social Accountability through active Citizenry”, “Expose the Corrupt”, “Stop corruption”, “End corruption”, Anti-corruption run”, etc. Most of these slogans and campaigns are driven by donors who inject funds into anti-corruption institutions with the aim of raising awareness in fighting corruption.
In spite of these campaigns, over the years, corruption indices have put Uganda among the 30 most corrupt countries in the world with its anticorruption performance averaging 20 on a scale where 0 is the worst and 100 is the best. This is in spite of establishing a plethora of laws, policies and institutions that fight corruption.
As a show of force in the fight against corruption, Uganda established the Inspectorate of Government (IG) in 1988. Other organisations involved in the anti-corruption fight include the Office of Auditor General, Financial Intelligence Authority, Directorate of Public Prosecutions, State House Anti-Corruption Unit, the police, etc. These are backed by a host of anti-corruption laws. Yet the vice of corruption appears to spread more.
The Fourth National Integrity Survey commissioned by the IG shows that 58% of the households surveyed had experienced corruption. The survey says young people between the age bracket of 15 and 24 experienced corruption incidents more than any age group.
Peter Wandera, Executive Director, Transparency International Uganda, says there is a serious problem in Uganda about corruption. He said that since 1996 the annual corruption perception index by Transparency International has always put Uganda at less than 30. In 2019, Uganda’s performance in the fight against corruption was 28 but in 2020 the score sunk to 27.
The National Integrity Study by the Inspectorate of Government found that Uganda loses Shs10 trillion per year to corruption. These studies are corroborated by Afrobarometer, which is a global survey which covers Africa. The Uganda Bribery Index of 2020 discovered that 59.2% of respondents had encountered an experience of bribery. That’s six out of 10 Ugandans have experienced bribery. This shows that instances of corruption in Uganda are very high.
On a number of occasions, President Yoweri Museveni has complained that investors are being frustrated by the corrupt warning that anyone caught engaged in such a vice will be prosecuted. Corruption threatens the amount of foreign direct investments in the country. Corruption also denies social and public services to the people of Uganda especially the poor and vulnerable.
“Corruption disproportionately affects the poor most,” says Wandera, adding that: “this can be witnessed in the recent challenges that came up in attending to COVID-19 pandemic response programmes be it food, medical, etc. most of the poor people did not get the Nabanja cash. Instead it is the people working at the different districts that got this money.” He was referring the COVID-19 relief fund that the government of Uganda issued out to the vulnerable.