By Grace Kobusingye
The Ugandan government has acknowledged that corruption is one of the main challenges facing the country.
In spite of reforms, there has been room to improve the level of transparency and accountability of the country’s public financial management system still.
Several reforms, laws and new institutions to fight corruption have been established. However, in spite of recent investigations and corruption trials, an effective enforcement of the laws in place is still lacking.
In recent years, the Government of Uganda has been vocal about fighting corruption in the country. A series of laws and policies aimed at reducing corruption and its pervasive effects have been established, but their implementation and enforcement still remains a challenge.
Uganda has been a signatory of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), party to International Human rights conventions and the African Union Convention (AUC) on Preventing and Combating Corruption since 2004; this purportedly demonstrates her efforts to fight corruption.
However, values of democracy are undermined and the fulfilment of development goals is threatened.
The corruption vice comes along with costs. Citizens are compelled to pay for services that should be free; state budgets are pillaged by corrupt politicians; public spending is distorted as decision-makers focus spending on activities likely to yield large bribes like major public works; foreign investment is blocked as businesses are reluctant to invest in uncertain environments and economies suffer.
Not only costly in terms of money, it is also costly in terms of public trust and citizens’ willingness to participate in their societies. Corruption often has links to organised crime and fosters, as well as thrives, in conflict and war.
Indeed, high levels of corruption can increase the likelihood of a protracted conflict or a post-conflict society sliding back into war. Efforts to tackle climate change can also be undermined by corruption as bribes are paid to ignore environmental protection rules in the pursuit of quick profits.
The fight against corruption and bribery is a global phenomenon which has gained momentum in recent years worldwide.
However, the problem is that if anything, it is getting worse and especially so in Africa. The fight is more than a moral obligation; it is a reality that is now criminally enforceable with severe penalties for those who flout the law.
Fellow Ugandans, let us frustrate conditions that facilitate corruption where governance structures and processes are weak., these could be;
(i) incentives that encourage someone to engage in corrupt transactions
(ii) the availability of multiple opportunities for personal enrichment increases the temptation of corruption.
(iii) Access to and control over the means of corruption
(iv) limited risks of exposure and punishment.
In my view; anti-corruption work is not just about punishing the corrupt, However, a holistic approach to addressing corruption goes further than criminalisation and prosecution and it involves preventing it, by building transparent, accountable systems of governance and strengthening the capacity of civil society and the media as well as improving public integrity, strengthening the personal ethics of public and private officials, and perhaps even challenging social norms that encourage corruption.
The writer works with Uganda Debt Network