CORRUPTION EXPERIENCES IN UGANDA
Talking Points at The 3rd Regional UNCAC Coalition Meeting for Sub-Saharan Africa for 2022 on UNGASS Political Declaration.
“Political and Public Integrity”
By Bazira Henry Mugisha (PhD fellow), Executive Director, Water Governance Institute, Uganda.
The Political Declaration (PD) seeks to “fostering a culture of accountability, transparency, legality, integrity and fairness in the public sector, including by applying anti-corruption obligations and measures, codes of conduct and other ethical standards for all public officials, including executives and law enforcement officers, as well as prosecutors and members of parliaments and judicial bodies, bearing in mind their independence, and those subject or exposed to high corruption risks”.
This is a big and serious commitment whose realisation depends on genuine reforms at national and international level. There is national and international architecture and practice that perpetuates corruption at all levels. Corruption involve ‘a giver and taker or receiver”. There is somebody at one end that solicits or offers corruption and another on the other end that receives the corruption. “It takes two to tango”. There is an impression often created that Africans or people in under-developed countries are obscenely corrupt, this is not true. Corruption affects all countries – developed and under-developed – all are culpable – a reason for the UNGASS Political Declaration. There is therefore need to address the root causes, not just the vice, of corruption.
In this presentation, I share my opinions about the root causes of corruption in Uganda that might also be reflected in other African countries.
International Level Architecture Perpetuating Corruption
- International Finance (policy, institutions, systems & practice): that focuses on keeping the developed nations ahead of the under-developed; causing a net capital flight from under-developed to the developed nations; maintaining the under-developed countries as “sinks” (markets) to products processed in the developed countries as well as limiting developing country access to technology to exploit their natural resources, except through Multinational Corporations (MNCs). It is not very easy for developing nations to access financing from International Finance Institutions (IFIs) to acquire skills and technology to exploit their natural resources for social and economic development. When developing nations seek financing from IFIs to acquire technology to exploit natural resources, they are instead advised to approach MNCs based in the developed countries to come and assist in exploiting the natural resources in the developing nations. Since the MNCs with skills and technology to exploit natural resources are few and many developing nations are seeking them out for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), this creates competition among the developing nations for the FDI – causing them to “bend-over backwards” by offering MNCs contract terms filled with significant sweeteners or concessions (i.e. tax holidays, tax exemptions, financial terms that allow 100% expatriation of profits, free land, etc) to oust competing nations at the detriment of their societies, economies and environment. This is often accompanied with corruption triggered by officials involved in negotiating the contracts. The IFIs find it very attractive to award loans to MNCs seeking to exploit natural resources in developing countries. The IFIs also strongly advocate for developing nations to attract a significant amount of FDI – and yet this results in a net outflow of revenue (capital flight) – undermining social and economic development of the country. For every dollar ($1.0) invested by MNCs in a developing nation, they licitly take out $8 to $30 dollars in profits, which is in addition to the illicitly transferred income. This is an unfair international architecture that continually keeps developing nations poor.
- Bilateral/Multilateral Trade Agreements (B/MTAs), Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) and charter treaties whose terms are heavily skewed in favour of developed countries – making it difficult or impossible for individuals or corporations from developing countries to invest in developed economies. In addition, such agreements have fostered treaty shopping, trade misinvoicing, illicit financial flows, money laundering, among other vices.
- Existence of Tax Havens: these are political jurisdictions that offer zero or very low corporation tax in contrast to other jurisdictions. Such jurisdictions offer individuals and corporations an opportunity to hide or transfer illicitly gotten monies.
- International Advise that uses developing nations as experiments to new concepts that do not always result in positive outcomes, especially that from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) e.g. structural adjustment programmes that resulted in worsening the development path of participating countries; and private-sector-led development that has result in skewed development in favour of the most profitable sectors of the economy at the detriment of the less profitable sectors.
National Level Architecture Perpetuating Corruption
- Low remunerations to sections of the public service: this triggers low morale among staff to perform effectively and efficiently. In addition, pension and Gratuity Schemes that do not guarantee decent living once an officer retires from public service creates a temptation among public servants to individually focus on “securing their future” causing them to be corrupt. It is important that remunerations, pensions and gratuity to public guarantee a decent retirement. The same needs to be applied for private sector employees as appropriate.
- Policy and legislation that is riddled with gaps and implementation challenges making it difficult to effectively prosecute offenses and recovering proceeds of corruption.
- Weakened Institutions through political interference, thus undermining the ability of institutions to exercise their mandates effectively.
- Lack of political will and political patriotism to prosecute corruption cases, since majority are usually attributed to politically connected high net-worth individuals or corporations. In such cases, there is political will not to prosecute the affected individuals or corporations.
- An education system that does not guarantee employment or self-employment of graduates and does not impart skills, innovation and transfer of technology, but trains clerical officers whose jobs are limited – having many unemployed youth triggers corruption and theft as well as undermines respect of ones’ integrity.
- Political systems and practice that entrenches dictatorship are a recipe for corruption.
- Donor Aid and Geopolitics: donor aid is perceived as central to the corruption of the regime in Uganda through Budget support. While budget support has declined over the years since 2004, the Justice, Law and Order (JLOS) sector received euro60 million for three years (2018-2021) aimed at improving human rights compliance of service delivery in the JLOS sector and reduce public sector grand corruption. However, in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 the police received 44.9 and 47.7% of the JLOS funding, respectively, it is when the police and other security services committed major human rights violations, especially during the 2021 elections. The apparent lack of interest by the donor community to demand for accountability is due to geopolitics – the President Museveni’s regime is politically useful as a refugee-hosting country and as a key military ally in the region, particularly for the USA, so donors do not want to risk their strategic relationships with Uganda for the sake of democratic reforms or accountability.
Efforts at National and International Level to Fight Against Corruption.
There are efforts made at International level to fight against corruption that need to be supported and taken advantage of such convention against corruption, financial intelligence, web-based information on trading between parties for different commodities, international law, extractive industries transparency initiatives, among others. Efforts at national level level include policy, legislation and institutional frameworks to fight against corruption – that need to be allowed space to exercise their mandates without political interference
What can civil society do to raise awareness of the essentialities of the PD in their efforts to raise awareness and advocate for public and political integrity?
- Conduct analyses on the impact of international finance, trade and corporate structure on perpetuating or mitigating corruption as well as the root causes of corruption at international level and what needs to be done to improve effectiveness in the fight against corruption at international level.
- Conduct analyses at national level on the root causes of corruption and what needs to be done to prevent corruption.
- Create public awareness on the root causes of corruption at national and international level through dialogues, research papers, social media, print and electronic media.
- Report the revenue lost through corruption in the context of lost opportunities including social goods and services e.g. the foregone schools or hospitals that would have been set up by the lost monies or the lost opportunities as a result of smuggled goods or contraband exported in the guise of known commodities.
- Create public awareness about the UNGASS political declaration, its aspirations and proposals for action including awareness about UNCAC itself, because it is not widely known in many countries
What can civil society do to hold its government accountable to the commitments made in the PD?
- Prepare a checklist drawn from the Political Declaration of issues that will be tracked and discussed at country level
- Conduct investigative research to expose corruption cases at national and transnational and conduct protracted campaigns about the cases to trigger governments’ responses. These may include contract award, financial and trade transactions
- Engage government institution responsible for prosecuting the corruption cases to provide through dialogues progress or the lack of it on prosecuting the cases.
- Promote public awareness about the whistle-blower policy and legislation, the institutions responsible for the addressing corruption issues as well as advocating for the protection of whistle-blowers including putting in place mechanisms that protect whistle-blowers.
- Conduct follow-up dialogues on responses by the relevant institutions to the Office Auditor General’s (OAG’s) findings and recommendations
- Work with the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to conduct value-for-money studies on government’s social goods and services delivery investments.
- Continue to engage donors to demand for accountability of the aid money given to Uganda as well as holding to account the individuals accused of corruption in accordance to the law.
How can civil society ensure the inclusion of women and youth in pushing education and advocacy on public and political integrity, does the PD speak to this?
- When holding consultative meetings, conduct separate male, female and youth group meeting, so as to elicit unique gender-based issues that may not be elicited during collective group meetings. This approach could be applied during dialogues as appropriate.
- Conduct analyses on the education system and its effectiveness on imparting public and political integrity skills among youth, women and men as well as how the education system may be improved to impart such skills
- Conduct protracted campaigns through the print, electronic and social media on public and political integrity. This could change the voting behaviour and patterns among the electorate as well as the behaviour of politicians will in and outside service.
- Yes the PD speaks to women and youth, but in a limited way. It needs to expand its recognition of women and youth in the other relevant provisions of the PD, if not in the PD itself – at least in application of the PD. For instance, it talks about the youth in relation to corruption in sports, yet there are other avenues in which youth need to be assisted to avoid corruption.