A 2010 estimate puts Uganda’s GDP at $42 billion, with per capita income at $1,226. Further, according to the World Bank - Uganda’s economic growth was at 6.3 percent in 2010/11, which is well above Sub-Saharan Africa average.
You would think that given these fairly impressive figures, the quality of life of the average Ugandan was good. This, unfortunately, is not the case.
Only about 3 percent of the total population have access to electricity. Infant mortality rate was at 79 per 1,000 in 2005, and rose to 128 in 2009. There is lack of basic social infrastructure – with the hospitals and roads in a very sorry state.
Why does this happen?
One of the most often cited reasons for this problem is corruption.
Due to corruption, services are not properly delivered to the sectors to which resources have been allocated. Further, lack of accountability leads to people who misappropriate public funds to flourish without facing any risk of prosecution.
A culture of impunity is pervasive in the public sector, with top government officials, legislators, the judiciary, and civil servants at every rank exploiting their positions to gain access to public funds/resources for their own benefit – and little to no risk of being held accountable.
The World Bank (2005) estimates that Uganda loses about $300m (sh510b) per year through corruption and procurement malpractices,” the 592-pages report notes. It reckons that the Government would save sh30b annually by eliminating losses from corruption in public procurement alone. Citing the 2005 Auditor General’s Report, it estimates that 20% of the value of public procurement was lost through corruption, prompted by weak public procurement laws, adding that procurement accounts for 70% of public expenditure.
The Uganda Self-Assessment Report and Programme of Action was yesterday launched by finance state minister Fred Omach at the National Planning Authority offices in Kampala. It is part of an initiative by African countries to assess themselves and each other on issues of democracy and good governance, economic management, corporate governance and socio-economic development. “Corruption in procurement has adversely impacted on the quality of services meant to improve the quality of life, especially health and education,” says the report, which was presented to the President before it was launched.
“It has influenced death and poverty levels in Uganda. For private firms, the costs of production have been continually high and unpredictable.” The Government did put up a number of legal and regulatory frameworks to fight corruption, the commission acknowledges. It lists the establishment of the Inspectorate of Government Act, the Leadership Code Act, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act and the Whistle Blower Act. Despite these measures “the perception is that corruption has not decreased in the public sector”.
Two thirds of respondents believed corruption had increased, according to a 2007 survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. One third even believed it had increased a lot. In another survey, cited in the report, almost half of the respondents reported that bribes were more frequently demanded today than five years ago.
Here’s what Kundhavi Kadiresan, the World Bank Country Manager (for Uganda) had to say to the president of Uganda in February 2010:
Your Excellency, corruption in Uganda is endemic and we have seen no signs of improvement. The costs of corruption, stealing and leakages are staggering: $1.6 million lost in the global fund to fight aids, tuberculosis and malaria; $4.6 million lost in the GAVI immunization scam; at least $27 million lost in connection with CHOGM; billions of Shillings lost in the NAADS scam and the NSSF Temangalo scandal; and the loss in procurement corruption is estimated by the PPDA to be more than $100m per year.
Billions upon billions of shillings lost, misappropriated, stolen, or unaccounted for – while people die in hospitals due to lack of drugs, there is widespread poverty, teachers are underpaid, and the quality of education being provided in our underfunded schools is appalling.
Corruption also runs deep within Ugandan law enforcement:
The Uganda Police Force has been found to be the most bribery-prone institution compared to other forces in the five East African Community partner states, according to the latest East Africa Bribery Index, carried out by Transparency International.
Criminals, especially those who embezzle public funds, are thus very rarely brought to book.
In 2009 TULLOW OIL, an Anglo-Irish exploration firm, announced that Uganda has 700m barrels of proven reserves. Within a few years Uganda could be producing 100,000-150,000 barrels a day – worth billions of dollars annually.
However, already, the oil sector has been plagued with allegations of bribery already – even before a single drop has been exported. Many are of the view that Uganda is probably going to suffer what some call the Oil Curse.
Looking at the current political situation in Uganda, with massive corruption and lack of accountability, its fair to assume that this oil wealth will not be channeled towards helping the country develop – rather, the wealth will most likely be exploited by a few in the ruling class. There are far too many examples of scenarios like this playing out elsewhere in Africa, such as Gabon.
WE NEED A SOLUTION:
So… what’s the solution?
Civil society groups, and also the international donor community, have all made calls for increased transparency and better governance as the way to curb corruption in Uganda. These appeals have been made for the last 20 or so years, but corruption seems to be getting worse with time.
Will continuing to press hard with calls for transparency and better governance eventually yield fruit? Or is it time for a new approach? Is a new strategy needed? Might it help to try to look into what might be the SOURCE of corruption, so that we instead deal with its cause rather than the symptoms? Might culture have anything to do with it? Or is it education? Is it a question of having appropriate systems? Do we need new laws?
This is what we want to discuss!
If you are an open minded person whose opinions are formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason and are interested in meeting like-minded individuals – you are welcome to join us at the meeting.
The October 2011 Freethinkers’ Night is going to take place on Thursday, 27th October, at 4 Points Bar & Restaurant, Centenary Park, Kampala, starting 6PM. Entrance is FREE.