KAMPALA – “Victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats” Celebrate even small victories”
Today As I watched the National celebrations at Kololo on the International Anti-Corruption day themed ‘’ Promoting Active Citizen Participation in Social Accountability’’ presided over by H.E the President, something crossed my mind, besides the gruesome effects and pernicious influences due to corruption, Is there are anything as a nation we can count as victories and keep on the drawing board? In my mind, I pondered on the need to count our victories one by one and identify stronger strategies to kick corruption. In the last weeks, I have scribbled on what we can do better but I feel we not only need to focus on our failures alone. We must assess where we are as a Nation, celebrate the victories in the fight against corruption and re-energize to fight better. When we acknowledge all our small victories, they will eventually add up to something great and kick corruption out of Uganda.
Undeniably, corruption has greatly affected our Nation economically and socially. It has impacted the lives of the poor and vulnerable terribly. It has costed lives in the health sector and affected local and foreign investment. It has deterred the enjoyment of human rights for all people regardless of age, sex and status. In the women’s spaces, it has enhanced gender inequalities and robbed us of a future. Sustainable development and growth cannot thrive in a corrupt atmosphere nor can uphold the Rule of Law.
Contemporary corruption has increasingly become complex in form, nature and manifestations often practiced in syndicates and systematic collusions with a high level of concealment to beat even the most prudent anti-corruption systems. Corruption is a nightmare and deadly cancer.
Over the years, Uganda has been ranked among the most perceived corrupt countries, at both regional and international levels. Uganda’s global rankings as well as the local corruption surveys have shown a persistent poor performance of the country’s anti-corruption drives with most of Uganda’s systematic corruption increasing. Sad but true.
The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published by Transparency International scores reflect Uganda below the average rank and places us among the highly corrupt countries. By implication, this trend shows a minimal impact of Uganda’s anti-corruption efforts, demonstrated by a range of the legal regime and institutional strategic actions.
Needless to say, there are government, CSOs and stakeholder anti-corruption victories worth acknowledging and if celebrated will amount to bigger victories in the Anti-Corruption fight. We cannot ignore the various anti-corruption champions, foot soldiers and milestones. It is said little victories lead to bigger victories. We should treat every small victory like you just won the super bowl. Our government has a strong will to fight corruption despite its prevalence in all sectors. On a victorious side Government has displayed this through enacting anti-corruption legislation and law reforms.
In the recent past the laws which include the Anti-Corruption Act 2009, Whistle Blower Protection Act 2010, IGG Act 2002, Public Finance Management Act 2015, National Audit Act 2008, Anti Money Laundering Act, 2013, PPDA 2003, the Leadership Code Act and its amendment 2020 are great victories worth celebrating. These enacted laws have directly shaped, backed up and enabled a legal environment for fighting corruption. We have also signed and ratified the UN and AU Anti-Corruption conventions.
The Anti-Corruption Institutional framework is in place to ensure efficient and effective utilization and public resources and promote transparency and accountability. Credible and strong Anti-Corruption Agencies and institutions in place is another milestone, these include the Judiciary, Office of the Prime Minister, the Office of the President, Directorate of Ethics and Integrity under the Office of the President, Inspectorate of Government, Leadership Code tribunal, Office of the Directorate of Prosecutions, Uganda Police, State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Financial Intelligence Authority, Auditor General, and many others.
These strong government established agency partnerships and network platforms like Inter-Agency Forum (IAF), Accountability Sector (AS), Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS) and Sector Wide Approach (SWAP) have ensured efficient and effective utilization of public resources and promote transparency and accountability while enhancing strong partnerships/networks of anti-corruption agencies/institutions in place. This allows effective collaboration and coordination to eliminate Corruption in all sectors. Also, it ensures that the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACs) is effectively implemented to promote the fight against corruption and related malpractices.
The Anti-Corruption framework in place is supported by existing national policies is in place despite cancer. These, directly and indirectly, hinge on policy objectives of promoting equity, justice, social-economic and political transformation.
Uganda has implemented the National Anti-Corruption Strategy since 1998 in it 5th cycle with tangible milestones including public awareness on corruption, coalition building, increasing public participation etc. The holistic strategy of NACs has greatly strengthened public accountability and combated corruption. The Zero Tolerance to Corruption Policy is in place and operational. The current Policy framework sets the foundation for encouraging all institutions to embrace the Zero Tolerance to corruption culture and practice, in order to promote efficient and effective public service delivery.
Strategic collaboration with non-state actors, media, youth, communities and citizens. Corruption is now seen as everyone’s problem and concern. There are sustainable Anti-Corruption measures hinged on ethics, integrity and moral fabric aimed to rebuild, reinvigorate our social, cultural, economic and political moral values, a shaky foundation which has been fertile ground for corruption.
Uganda has created a fertile ground for remarkably strong Civil Society Organisations, Coalitions and formidable networks like the Anti Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU), Transparency International among others intended to demand good governance, transparency, accountability and transformation public service delivery to spur national development. Many Anti-Corruption interventions in place now for promoting ethics, integrity, and fight corruption both in the public and private sectors have been formulated and implemented. Corruption is still a big challenge but we are slowly getting somewhere.
The Global Integrity Report 2011 rated the country’s Anti-Corruption Legal Framework as very strong at 98 percent; albeit with a moderate overall score of 72 percent for the national Anti-Corruption front. The Country scored 51 percent for actual implementation of the Anti-Corruption legal framework. The percent however small is worth celebrating.
Multi-Sector networks and partnerships strengthened by the government like the Justice Law and Order Sector (JLOS), Accountability Sector (AS) in line with Sector Wide Approach (SWAP). Most agencies belong herein as both proactive and reactive agencies. They are mandated to promote and enhance transparency, accountability in the delivery of public services to combat corruption. Proactive Agencies in place Directorate of Ethics and Integrity in office of the President, Inspectorate of Government, Leadership Code Tribunal, ODPP, Uganda Police Force, State House Anti-Corruption Unit, Internal Auditor General, Financial Intelligence Authority, URA, PPDA, ISO. Reactive Anti-Corruption agencies in place include the Uganda Police, Office of the DPP, the Inspectorate of Government, Judiciary and the Leadership Code Tribunal (LCT).
Many other institutions are mandated to play the oversight role include, the Parliament of Uganda through Standing and Sessional Committees, Office of the Prime Minister, Local Government Councils, Ministry Of Finance Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Public Service, the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit (BMAU) as well as the Accountant General etc.
LCT as the new kid on the block in the fight against corruption has credibility and armed with a competent team is ready for adjudication of all cases arising from the breach of the Leadership Code of Conduct.
There are clear Anti-Corruption Strategic Action Plans and operations demonstrating a consistent government commitment to fight corruption since historical times to date. A number of interventions have been initiated in the area of good governance to build a society that espouses integrity and accountability in both the public and private sectors i.e. Commissions of inquiry(s), recently the Land commission of inquiry.
The government has also put in place strong anti-corruption systems and strict control measures to enhance public finance management, quality of service delivery and generally strengthen public accountability and transparency. These include the introduction and rollout of Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) to strengthen financial management, IPPS (Integrated Personnel and Pay Roll System) in order to regularize the management of the payroll, STP (Implementing of Straight Through Processing (STP) of moneys to spending entities to increase efficiency in payment, spending and accountability for public funds.
We have the Implementation of the Results Oriented Management (ROM), Output oriented Budgeting (OOB) and Output Budgeting Tool (OBT) to strengthen links between inputs and results. There is Implementation of the Treasury Single Account as a modern and efficient cash management practice. We now have a Decentralization of the payroll which has led to timely payments of salaries as well as savings. All this is aimed at ensuring accountability and transparency in public wages and salaries. Whereas we may still have some systematic corruption tendencies and acts gradually something is working.
It‘s trite to note there is increased monitoring and supervision of service delivery through special units such as the Health Monitoring Unit, Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit and Roads Monitoring Unit.
There is Centralizing of the purchasing and delivery of human drugs and medicines by the National Medical Stores. Computerization of the National Registries for curbing bribery and other forms of corruption involved in registration of business and properties.
Realistically, the above government multi-sectoral reforms over time have seen a gradual improvement of public service delivery across the government minimalizes corruption. The accountability sector has developed and implemented sectoral strategic investment plans focusing on improving compliance with accountability rules and regulation, strengthening public demand for accountability and enhancing prevention, detection and elimination of corruption.
Whereas corruption in Uganda has become endemic, destructive to service delivery and productivity in our Nation. We can acknowledge the milestones in the fight and strongly determine, resolve to be more aggressive in all interventions
We may not be where we want to be but we are not where we used to be as a Nation in the fight against corruption. We still have so much to do to eliminate this cancer that costs us steady economic growth and development. We need behavioral and attitude change individually to shun corruption. We need youth, community and strong citizenry participation in the fight. A multi-sectoral strategy is critical. Working and strengthening existing partnerships, coalitions, agencies and networks is mandatory. Adaptability, digitalization and technological transformation is the way to go. Strong penalties and sanctions is non- negotioble. Media inclusivity is critical . Kicking corruption requires an active, fearless, steadfast, aggressive yet cohesive citizenry agenda.
Undoubtedly, corruption still stands out as a monster and the worst enemy to our Nation towards the realization of National objectives of prosperity for all and development. We should not stop actively demanding public accountability and most importantly adhere to citizenry participation. Your active individual voice in the fight against corruption matters. Speak out in all spaces and forums. Enhance public and individual awareness in all forms and spaces. We should not compromise on the social fabric and moral, values do not form greed and unethical behavior by all of us. The fight against corruption starts with me at home and spills over to my community.
Ms. Joyce Nalunga Birimumaaso is a senior advocate and member, Leadership Code Tribunal