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Uganda’s war on corruption

Christopher Obey, Jimmy Lwamafa and Kiwanuka Kunsa

THE LAST WORD: By Andrew M. Mwenda

Why do many people believe corruption is out of control despite many prosecutions?

In October, the Anticorruption Court convicted the main culprits in the theft of pension money. The three men were top officials of the ministry of public service; including the permanent secretary and the principle accountants. The story made headlines for two days and died away. Indeed, every day, there is news of public officials in Uganda being arrested, charged, and prosecuted or being convicted of corruption. But they don’t make big news. Yet the media – both traditional and social media – get obsessed with considerably minor stories and cover them for weeks on end.

Over the last five years, few public officials who have been embroiled in corruption have not ended in court and better still in prison. These include a former vice president, top ministers including those closest to the president, business persons etc. Over this same period about six permanent secretaries have been indicted and charged in courts of law with corruption. In fact, if you keep your eye especially on New Vision, there are almost daily stories of local officials in districts being prosecuted or convicted for corruption.

Statistically, therefore, it can be seen that the government of Uganda is fighting corruption. I have not done a statistical audit to establish how many public officials get charged with corruption, how many are tried in courts of law, and what percentage gets convicted. But soon I will assemble comparative data within Uganda over time i.e. comparing the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s and between Uganda and other poor countries.

I suspect there are increasingly more arrests and trials of the corrupt today than ever before. If my suspicion is right, why do many people believe that corruption is running out of control at the time when the Anti-Corruption Court has been most effective in prosecution?

One reason could be that corruption has grown just as its prosecution has intensified. If this were true, it would suggest that the returns from corruption are very high and, therefore, many thieves do not mind spending five years in jail for it.

The other reason is that there is great fatigue with the Yoweri Museveni administration most especially among the educated strata of society. Again I do not have scientific data and this is based entirely on my anecdotal evidence gleaned from reading social media and following traditional media reports. Anyone who tries to defend Museveni and his government only invites derision and hostility. I have watched in silent wonderment at why the Museveni administration does not feel it vital to develop a communications strategy to improve its public image.

But the most important thing is that Museveni personally (and his government generally) has treated corruption as a criminal and legal rather than a political problem. If you follow the President closely, he keeps saying that he (and his government and political party) first fought extra judicial killings. He says that was easy to deal with. However, he argues that corruption is more complicated because now you need more professional people such as accountants and auditors to detect and prosecute it. And I think the weakness of the Museveni approach lies here.

6 comments

  1. Very good column, but “the most successful country at fighting corruption in Africa today is not Rwanda” but rather Botswana. here are my references please.
    http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015/results
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_Botswana.

  2. 1.Morally corruption is an issue but economically it does wonders.Ugandans behave like they hate money but during Campaigns, i see them demanding to be bribed before they cast their votes.
    2.The strategy of whistler blowing is doing wonders in the fight against corruption in Ug that’s why the Pension saga was exposed.(even the old are thieves how could Mzee Rwamafa fail to differentiate between payment of NSSF & pension yet payment of NSSF was not within his jurisdiction)some lawyers can really chase for money & in their hot pursuit for hot cash they blunder mbu Kasngo & Matovu had a list off beneficiaries from EAC who were eligible to be paid but when one scrutinizes the list you can die of laughter e.g some of the alleged beneficiaries’s files were even burnt to destroy evidence,they even waylaid those stranded UPC diehards at Ug House who really look retired and took their photos but their photos were not clear coz they came out when they had closed their eyes typical of UPC guys most of them fear the camera flash.
    3.Is corruption linked to poverty in Africa? i don’t think so this is why:The Social structural of most communities in Africa has created classes in societies e.g just go to any village in in Ug there are outstanding families that are recognized & somehow all these families and generations to come r doing well why is this so its coz they openly practice nepotism which is not of their own making they simply cant mix with the poor coz they have nothing in common & most of the poor guys have bad habits.
    4. There is a syndicate of technical personnel like Auditors,lawyers,Engineers ,Scientists that collude with owners of big projects to exaggerate & inflate the cost of projects this alone makes detecting corruption hard.
    5.How come despite all the UPE & USE programmes,people in the rural areas still dont get it and who is to blame?we aren’t going to baby sit you(Can you imagine while compensating land owners in the oil belt,some men even had the nerve to ask whether the money they would receive could buy a bicycle.
    6.There are many behind scenes that take place before a deal is concluded. Money is delivered to committee members at home even when they have not requested for it.
    7.Politicians have really poisoned the minds of the poor mbu land is the only asset they possess how can an asset be unproductive?

  3. Mbu TVO and KB’s fanatics are hurt that Andrew called them retarded i surprised that they think otherwise.

    Let me confess; Andrew’s photo with Fiona looks lovely that’s why the likes of TVO cant take it nothing can break Andrew Ugandans claim they hate him yet his FB account and Twitter accounts are the most viewed in Africa.

    TVO if you want to be initiated into being gay i can connect you.u will never look back i guarantee you.

    There is a new world trend where everyone thinks they know all about celebrities yet the they only see them on TV,Newspapers & hear them on Radio.

    Just go to bars in Kampala where the elites hang out they will either be discussing Andrew’s car,life i bet most Ugandans have never met Mwenda physically (guys even out do each other claiming that they have met Mwenda yet they have never met him.

    Aren’t KB’S guys the ones who go merrymaking at Nabugabo & Busabala beach and need to be guarded by police with tear gas?aren’t they the same chaps who mistake standing in water for swimming?( i dont know where their women get their swimming costumes from)aren’t they the ones who buy for their ladies ESB beer yet there is Smirnoff and Redds.

    Everything about KB’s supporters is depressing.

  4. Dear Mr. Mwenda Andrew:

    Thanks for providing the news and sparks to which we can add our voices or thoughts. I have always wondered what the Ugandan government means by corruption which can be by commission and omission. How can we raise the anticorruption conscientization levels in Uganda? Personally, I feel there has to be a collective understanding of systems. There is an esotericism which divides us into the naive and literate as far as corruption in Uganda goes. Are there written books about do’s and dont’s other than the Mosaic laws, codes of conduct and induction trainings? Most of it involves money appropriated by means not laid down in an existing standard operating procedure. However, are we using the word from a moralist-religious sense? Or are we using it as a street-level parlance? When do we use the attribute corruption on someone? Is it when one has been found guilty before a court of law or is before? If there are 10 steps to go through before one is to procure money, nine may be procedural but it is the tenth that gets one the actual cash. If one fulfilled the nine steps and reneged on the tenth, I am sure that is bad practice. What about when one does not go through the nine steps but is able to get the cash? We normally discuss people but not the semi-autonomous or fully autonomous systems through which logistical requests and approvals are made. Perhaps, when we can understand the procurement procedures, shall we be able to be part of the anti corruption structures of Uganda. Once again, thanks for the write articles.

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