Elimination of Corruption and abuse of power was number seven on NRA ten point program when President Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986.
Three decades later NRM government, under the same president, has established numerous institutions and laws including the Inspectorate of Government Act 2002; Leadership Code Act 2002 (amended); Anti-Corruption Act 2009 (amended); Whistleblowers’ Protection Act 2012; Public Finance Management Act 2015 among others but corruption remains endemic.
President Museveni is Monday expected to announce a new strategy against graft as Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day.
The Transparency International corruption ranking report published in February 2018 placed Uganda as the 29th most corrupt country in the world on the list capped by Somalia and South Sudan at number 1 and 2 respectively.
In a possible agreement that government through IGG, Anti-Corruption Court, PPDA, Directorate of Ethics, Auditor General and others failed to solve the corruption problem, Museveni personally admitted on Tuesday that the vice is widespread and promised to make new pronouncements tomorrow.
“On December 10th, I will announce a new measure in our renewed fight against corruption. That said, there is corruption in Uganda,” said Museveni in one of brief statements on his official social media account.
Experts speak out
Museveni’s ability to eliminate corruption in the country continues to divide public opinion, with critics saying the current political environment is unfavorable.
“In this environment. Museveni has no capacity to lead war against corruption. He would be fighting people who run his system,” said Godber Tumushabe, a lawyer, policy analyst and social entrepreneur.
“To deal with institutionalized corruption, from State House to the lowest unit, you need to do something that constitutes shock therapy. So that everybody feels this is bad news for us. Otherwise no one pays attention,” he added.
Tumushabe, who runs Great Lakes institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS), an independent policy think tank, says Museveni has the opportunity of announcing a leaner cabinet and stopping distribution of cash handouts but this would eat into what he described as “regime survival.”
He said, “The moment you want to go head-on against the corruption machinery, you will be fighting your own survival.”
Asked to explain what Museveni needs to do, Tumushabe responded: “You’ve to start doing things that restore confidence of citizens in government.”
In his brief notes, Museveni acknowledged that corruption was among the first 10 priorities he promised Ugandans in 1986.
“However, when we undertook the liberation struggle of this country, there were more pressing problems to attend to. These problems were extra-judicial killings, lack of democracy, collapsed economy, collapsed infrastructure and poaching in the tourism sector. Corruption was below these in order of urgency,” said Museveni.
Corruption has indeed affected the progress of some or all the 9 point programs as institutions and laws are made and amended almost every year.
Corruption not only undermines public service delivery but also hinders economic growth.
The inequality gap grows wider, fueling discontentment in society which could as well lead to political instability.
Tumushabe cautioned that Museveni cannot fight corruption when he still wants to contest for presidency.
“Regime survival is intricately linked to corruption. Museveni should say he is done with presidency and offer to clean the system in the remaining years. Otherwise there is no way he can plan to seek re-election and talk of fighting corruption,” said Tumushabe.
The law lecturer also pointed out that creation of duplicate institutions to fight institutional failure also manifested corruption.
This view is shared by several opinion leaders who claim creation of a new desk at State House to fight corruption is a vote of no confidence in the Inspectorate of Government, Police, Ethics and Integrity Ministry which are mandated to enforce accountability in the public service sector.
The President is, however, confident the battle against corruption will be a decisive one.
“Corruption will now be defeated. The corrupt civil servants have exposed themselves. The population is angry with them,” added Museveni.
He said government now has “more educated young people,” adding, “The pool from which to pick the replacements for the corrupt civil servants has grown.”
Museveni said the problem now is the law which is manipulated by corrupt civil servants to shield themselves.
“We now need quicker methods of accountability to deal with the corrupt. I have the political will but I do not want to deal with them outside the law,” he said, without providing details or citing instances where he has decisively dealt with the corrupt.